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Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,848 ratings  ·  197 reviews
The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: it’s here; it’s everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, ...more
Paperback, 152 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by OR Books
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Stephany Wilkes
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
First, the good. Rushkoff makes important points, and I thought the best were made in the final chapter that bears the title of the book. Rushkoff breathes new life into the importance of controlling the means of production. Unlike other tools (the woodworking hand tools and knitting needles of which I am so very fond, for instance) software is programmed. Well, obviously. But this matters because programming is a process; the code we use in the form of software is the end result of a particular ...more
Marc Weidenbaum
This book definitely makes more sense when read alongside the recent ones by Kevin Kelly and by Jaron Lanier. Like them, it's something of a correction on the tech-evangelism that has marked much of its author's earlier works. If Lanier's is a rangy diatribe, and Kelly's a concertedly developed argument, Rushkoff's is a list: it's 10 ideas, laid out plainly for a common reader. The last of these 10 ideas ("commands," a joke on the 10 commandments), the one from which the book takes its title, is ...more
Feb 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The ideas in this book are 5 star worthy though the execution a 3 but the ideas are very important, so worth the read. Each of us as well as humanity need to have a deliberate relationship with technology, Rushkoff argues. Let us be clear Rushkoff is no crackpot he is degreed, learned, and thoughtful (his bio - http://www.rushkoff.com/about/). He definitively makes the argument that the debate over the societal value of the internet and technology is irrelevant (he states the obvious, “it is her ...more
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what I expected of this book, but it was less technical then I thought it was going to be. It is a quick read with a number of thoughtful anecdotes. Some of the "commands" seemed like etiquette lessons for a digital age, but overall I thought the book was insightful.

I found the last two commands, Openness and Purpose, the most interesting. If his motivation for writing this book was to spark more of an interest in programming he has succeeded with me!

One of his strongest points was
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, 2011

Right from the first page, Douglas Rushkoff's book Program or Be Programmed reminded me of Nicholas Carr's, The Shallows [1] -- only with a broader scope and more buzzwords and a less gloomy appraisal of the subject. I read The Shallows last year, and though it was interesting, it was also overly dramatic, and was too timid in its speculations -- and thus it failed to draw fully-baked conclusions or make substantive predictions. We walk away with Carr's Neural Doomsday:

The price we pay to as
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, english, tech
Program or Be Programmed has some serious "Old man yells at cloud" energy, and you know, that's fine, understandable even - every now and then I was totally willing to yell at the clouds with him, but aside from those moments, this book is... questionable. Now, I am aware that it was written and published in 2010, but not all of his takes just aged badly, some of them were awful to begin with.

The Good
Rushkoff rightly identifies many of the issues that plague society and its individuals in this e
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
As someone who is primarily interested in social media’s influence on us, the chapters ‘Time’ (Do not always be on), ‘Place’ (Live in person) and ‘Complexity’ (You are never completely right) really struck a chord. However, I found the other chapters thought provoking for aspects of the digital age that I haven’t much explored or thought about.

However I take issue with Rushkoff’s main point: Learn coding to throw off the shackles of the oppressor and shape the narrative of the digital age to bes
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
In this book Douglas Rushkoff not only discusses what it means to be a participant in this new, fast-paced digital world, but he also outlines ten rules (or "commandments" as he calls them) for for us to use so we don't get swept off our feet in media streams. Rushkoff takes his time delving into the possible repercussions of Time, Place, Choice, Complexity, Scale, Identity, Social, Fact, Openness, and Purpose.

Rushkoff begins his chapter by defining what he calls the "computer biases" concerning
First of all, I had to read this book for a communications course and I wasn't expecting to enjoy it, so perhaps I was already biased. (I did love the course, though, so maybe that evens it out? Oh well, irrelevant.)

Overall, I thought that Rushkoff made his point in each chapter within just a few sentences, and the rest was all just fluff. He seemed to write the same things over and over again, just using different words. The book wasn't long by any means, but it definitely could have been much
Dec 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
Dear God this is an awful book: obvious, tedious, puffed up with empty words and self-importance. If "Ten Commands for a Digital Age" sounds like the title of a blog post to you, that's because it should have been one: there's just about enough ideas and specific examples here to sustain a longish blog post, no more.

Reading this short-but-not-short-enough book in its entirety has been like chewing through a loaf of damp white-bread trying to get to one tasty chocolate chip buried in the middle.
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Insightful and deep reflection on the way we could/should evolve our behaviour to maintain control of the digital evolution. The principles are here, but read the book:
TIME — Do Not Be “Always On”
PLACE — Live in Person
CHOICE — You May Always Choose “None of the Above”
COMPLEXITY — You Are Never Completely Right
SCALE — One Size Does Not Fit All
IDENTITY — Be Yourself
SOCIAL — Do Not Sell Your Friends
FACT — Tell the Truth
OPENNESS — Share, Don’t Steal
PURPOSE — Program or Be Programmed
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Not so much a treatise on coding, more a sociological examination of the effects of the internet.

Here are some quotes:

Political organizers who believed the Internet would consolidate their constituencies find that net petitions and self-referential blogging now serve as substitutes for action.

A news media that saw in information networks new opportunities for citizen journalism and responsive, twenty-four-hour news gathering has grown sensationalist, unprofitable, and devoid of useful facts.

Oct 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This reads as an old man shaking his fist and denouncing the internet and technology (computers), except his points are well thought out and solid. There are downsides to the tools we use and reuse to create and recreate the media that is ingested. I believe it is both outdated and still relevant now, because technology has integrated so deeply and uniquely with our lives, despite learning nothing of how it was used before. when this book was being published, there was a push for access to the i ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such important ideas and insights in this little book. (Also many typos.) (Also the newer cover is much less hideous.)
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some really excellent considerations here, as we continue to move into the digital age.
Kim Pallister
I headed into Douglas Rushkoff's book expecting it to like it. I've read some of his writing and find I agree with some of his major ideas. As the title of the book implies, it centers around the idea that the more of our lives we place in the hands of technology, the more important it is that we understand how the underlying tech works, and if necessary, be capable of changing it.

However, I was quite disappointed with the book. While some of his ideas are along the right lines, he sort of circl
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it

Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age written by Douglas Rushkoff is a book that discusses whether the internet is good or bad. This book compares the difference between understanding or knowing how to create software and becoming software. Rushkoff says “ It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed. Choose the former, and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make” (Rushkoff, 2010
Eric Phetteplace
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lis-web
Rushkoff gives a concise & accessible introduction to so many issues of our digital era, from filter bubbles to social media to copyright. The book offers several commandments for living a healthier life & taking advantage of computers. In sum, ways to make computers useful to you rather than bending to their will. It would make us a better society if everyone was forced to read it in junior high.
All of that said, I found some of Rushkoff's contentions a bit strained (the fact that binary data c
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended. A quick read, but thought-provoking.

I bought this book partially because I was interested in the way it was published. The author deliberately chose to publish with a small, independent publisher and to sell the book through the publisher's website only. He promoted it through Boing Boing and other sites. The price was a bit steep for such a small book, but I was happy to know that more of the money was going to the creator and an independent business, rather than a big corp
Yitzchok Lowy
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have long been thinking about the shifts that digital medias have been creating in life and society, in many contexts. One of the major questions i always had was if the use of ifferent tools or media for communication and other tasks really makes a difference in the human aspect of it, or is it just the same book in a different cover. I have mostly been on the side that it's all the same same, only peope get disorientated from seeing the same things in a different setting.

Rushkoff introduces
Tamas Kalman
Dec 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
A thought-provoking starting with a much more conservative approach as a resolution. I'd love to see more futuristic and modern approaches to resolve the challenges which are segmented in this book instead of trying to eliminate these problems which in my eyes aren't really problems but challenges and options which we can adapt and use for our own development and purposes. Although this book can be useful for anyone who is new to these subjects and might be even inspirational. ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
I have no idea why I forced myself to finish this substance-less punditry. It gets two stars because it has a list of good beginning programming resources in the back, and the book might be a good text for high school media studies or technology class.
Gregory Kaplan
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
To the point about technology having a "mind" or bias of its own. Yet media has always had these biases: compressing space, extending time, de-personalizing, etc. Now faster and more extensively. I'm still not sure what programming of code has to do with "programming" of a social nature. ...more
Oct 17, 2010 is currently reading it
I've been feeling this meme coming for a while. leave it to Rushkoff to jump on it first. ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Really disappointed in this one, as I love and believe in the titular idea. The contents are a series of pronouncements which, IMHO, don't really stand up to scrutiny. ...more
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Practical, radical, insightful. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" for the Internet. Read this book! ...more
Nelson Ramos
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Program or Be Programmed (2010) é um livro escrito por Douglas Rushkoff e é um livro que analisa e aponta mandamentos, mais concretamente dez, sobre o que significa viver num mundo digital como aquele que temos atualmente. E consequentemente, tenta chamar à nossa consciência conselhos de como podemos nos ajustar melhor a ele.

O autor é escritor, professor e documentalista que foca as maneiras como as pessoas, culturas e instituições criam, partilham e influenciam todos os seus valores, sempre sob
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Program or be Programmed", despite its title, is not a technical book. The programming is not really (or not wholly) referring to actual programming languages, it's not a programming manual. It's a brief practical handbook which purpose is to make one realize that digital technologies have certain biases, and when used in accordance to their biases these techs improve our quality of life; when used against these inherent biases they are much less effective, even harmful.

The book presents 10 suc
Aaron Schumacher
Mar 11, 2022 rated it really liked it
I thought this book would be about programming in the television sense of content - "don't just read, write; don't just watch, do," that sort of thing. And it sort of is - but he really means program in the "write computer programs" sense.

Despite the high-tech imperative, Rushkoff advocates more for limiting abuse of technology in ways that decrease quality of life. He is like Bit Literacy's author in emphasizing that people should be conscious of and control how they use technology. He can almo
Richard F
Sep 26, 2022 rated it liked it

I think there was an opportunity missed with this book. It does indeed carry many insights and salient points regarding the collision between humans and machines, but much of it is poorly written, making it sometimes difficult to digest the points being made. And this is a shame, as the ideas are worth of an audience.

I had my pencil sharpened at the start of this book as I thought there would be many takeaways, and in the introduction and opening chapter I was not disappointed and underline
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Goodreads Librari...: Correction 3 16 Apr 27, 2019 11:21AM  

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Douglas Rushkoff is a New York-based writer, columnist and lecturer on technology, media and popular culture.

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