Rushkoff, D., 2010. Program or be programmed, Soft Skull Press.


Doug Rushkoff has written ten simple commandments for the survival of “homo-interneticus”. The book has been written in a language that is very accessible, which I believe is an attempt to reach out to an audience that might not usually be interested in media theory. Perhaps, Doug Rushkoff felt compelled to make it accessible so as to reach the widest audience possible, it does serve to enlighten the masses and force them to consider what impact being part of the networked society entails. I have chosen to review the first commandment – TIME.

Time (the first commandment)

Doug Rushkoff begins the first commandment by introducing notions of an older, more elegant web. Asynchronicity is held up as the chess player’s mode of communication. In an asynchronous web, a user was more likely to take time over their response, maybe even construct it offline using a more suitable tool and then submit it to the World Wide Web next time they logged on. The technology of the time played a massive part in shaping an asynchronous web, slow and clumsy hardware pushed users patience to the max; it could often be a chore just getting online. Rushkoff reminisces nostalgically of an Internet for thinkers, a place where great consideration and deliberation fuelled lengthy debate, every response was cultivated over time and released with out haste or heat.

Computers operate in a timeless vacuum structured around the users every whim. Coded tasks sit dormant waiting for predefined events or user inputs. In harmony with this, Rushkoff argues that computers are “biased away from time” meaning that they are more inclined towards asynchronous modes. He believes that technology hasn’t adapted or evolved to be synchronous, instead it is quite the opposite, we have altered our behaviour to include asynchronous technologies into every second of our lives so these technologies feel more asynchronous. Rushkoff exemplifies the misuse of technology in terms of the humble email. Email, in its formative years was designed to exist outside of time. A user would normally check their email once or twice a day and respond to emails in their own time. As technology became more ubiquitous so did email. The underlying email system has not changed but accessibility has improved which means the frequency at which we can check are emails fools us into believing that we are dealing with our emails in a more asynchronous manner.

Rushkoff attempts to solidify the notion of our behavioural need to transcend asynchronous tech into the “now” using more tangible examples such as the introduction of a remote control, and VCR into our television experience. This really helps to concrete an already well-articulated concept.

Rushkoff argues that by forcing technology to work against its biases, we might be fooling ourselves into delusions of productivity, when in fact we might be perpetuating the noise. If a response is sent instantly after a message is received, if ever message has a reply, if we start believing the only way to stay on top of things is to pre-empt the next incoming message by constantly checking our inbox, how productive can we be? Instead of sending coherent, articulate communications at a time when the message has been considered and well thought out, there is a danger of reducing all correspondences to the level of “orders barked over a walkie talkie in a war zone”. Are we becoming slaves to the inbox?

One solution to reducing the noise is to simply take control over when you are “on” and to whom. Rushkoff recommends setting clear limits in terms of who can ring at you what times, when you check emails and how often you are connected but he feels that the allure of technologies false immediacy is to much for most people.

Rushkoff makes an astute observation about how we prioritise the value of recent information over relevant information. Search engines seek to tailor each search to the user showing the newest and most popular results, often obfuscating really useful but old information.

Towards the end of this section Rushkoff begins to explain that technology is not only changing the way we communicate, it is also completely changing the way we think. Neuroplasticity is the term used to explain how alterations in environment and behaviour can actually adjust the structure of the brain. He implies that the integration and saturation of technology in our everyday lives is fast becoming a dependency. He suggests there is an evolution to how we depend on technology. He suggests that in the beginning technology was used to enhance memory in an encyclopaedic manner. More and more we are using technology to obfuscate process, punch in some numbers out pops the result, the user is completely unaware of the process. Rushkoff warns of the dependency to technology that arises from this obfuscation. If a book is forgotten then we can go back and read it but if a skill is lost then it takes time and training.

Rushkoff concludes this section with a fairly positive spin. He suggests that as long as we are aware of the biases, control and monitor our dependencies, technology can actually work to make us more human, we just need to know technologies limits.


At the beginning of this chapter Doug Brushoff’s argument comes across as bias, a nostalgic look back at a thinkers Internet where every message was considered, articulate and worth the digital effort. I wonder whether a digital divide was the driving force of a mostly enlightened early Internet. The hardware alone was much more expensive and the cost of connection meant that Internet activity was probably mostly carried out by academia and the upper classes and middle classes.

I am seriously keen to research the driving forces for misuse of Facebook in and out of the classroom. Rushkoff mentions compulsion to check online correspondence for worry of missing the next big event? I wonder how easy it would be to find out if this is ripe in the classroom.

How do students prioritise recent info over relevant? This is a really exciting concept in terms of student research. How can we make sure that students understand the difference? There is a really interesting concept called the filter bubble constructed by Eli Parsier, which links to the debates over relevant and recent information. Parsier explains The Filter Bubble as “what the internet hides from us” which refers to how Internet searches are fast becoming so efficient and tailored made that most people only access what is linked closest to the online personality. I am interested in finding if the students are aware of how this might affect their research?