Rushkoff, Douglas 1961–
Rushkoff, Douglas 1961–
PERSONAL: Born February 18, 1961, in New York, NY; son of Marvin (a hospital administrator) and Sheila (a psychiatric social worker) Rushkoff; married Barbara (maiden name Kligman) Rushkoff; children: Mamie (daughter). Education: Princeton University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1983; California Institute of the Arts, M.F.A., 1986. Politics: "Optimism." Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Office—Douglas Rushkoff, NYU/ITP, 721 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003. Agent—Jay Mandel, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Author, journalist, film producer, and media consultant. Esalen Institute, instructor; Banff Center for the Arts, instructor; National Public Radio, commentator, "All Things Considered"; Columbia Broadcast System, New York City, commentator on "Sunday Morning"; New York University, New York City, professor of communications; advisor to the United Nations Commission on World Culture. Appeared in a commercial for Apple Computers; developed the Electronic Oracle Software Series for HarperCollins Interactive; worked as a certified stage fight choreographer; keyboardist for the band PsychicTV; member of board of directors of Media Ecology Association; member of board of directors of The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics; founding member of Technorealism.
MEMBER: National Writer's Union, Authors Guild, Harmony Lodge.
AWARDS, HONORS: Director's fellowship, American Film Institute, 1988; Director's Grant, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Marshall McLuhan Award for Best Media Book, 2002, for Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say; Exit Strategy selected by MacGillis as one of the 200 most important books of 2002; Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, 2004; Markle Foundation senior fellow; Center for Global Communications fellow.
(With Patrick Wells) Free Rides: How to Get High without Drugs, Delta (New York, NY), 1991, published as Stoned Free: How to Get High without Drugs, Loompanics (Port Townsend, WA), 1995.
Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1994.
Cyber Tarot (computer file), HarperCollins Interactive (New York, NY), 1994.
The Gen X Reader, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1994.
Media Virus!: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1994.
Children of Chaos: Surviving the End of the World as We Know It, HarperCollins (London, England), 1995, published as Playing the Future: How Kids' Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996, updated with a new introduction as Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1999, published as Screenagers: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids, Hampton Press (Cresskill, NJ), 2006.
Ecstasy Club: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Bull, Sceptre (London, England), 2001, published as Exit Strategy: A Novel, Soft Skull Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.
Open Source Democracy: How Online Communication Is Changing Offline Politics (e-book), Demos (London, England), 2003.
(Author of text) Club Zero-G, illustrated by Steph Dumais, Disinformation (St. Paul, MN), 2004.
(And producer) The Persuaders (screenplay), Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 2004.
Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out, CollinsBusiness (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to the books Painful but Fabulous: Life and Art of Genesis P-Orridge, and We Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind. Correspondent and consulting producer for the PBS documentary Merchants of Cool. Columnist for the New York Times syndicate, the London Guardian online supplement, Time, and the Australian; contributor to periodicals, including Esquire, Details, Modern Review, GQ, Paper, and Magical Blend.
ADAPTATIONS: Ecstasy Club was adapted for film.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Testament, a comic book series from DC/Vertigo that imagines what the world would be like if the events from the Bible were taking place in contemporary times.
SIDELIGHTS: Douglas Rushkoff's career as a journalist took off in 1994 with the publication of Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace and Media Virus!: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture. Rushkoff was suddenly in demand as a media consultant to the United Nations Commission on World Culture and, for fees of five thousand dollars an hour and up, to various corporations. In 1995 Rushkoff published Children of Chaos: Surviving the End of the World as We Know It in London; it was released in the United States the following year as Playing the Future: How Kids' Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos.
Rushkoff is known as an advocate of nontraditional, nonlinear thinking. In an interview with Chris Mitchell in the online Spike Magazine, he called himself a member of the "hinge" generation, saying: "I'm a translator of what's going on." Mitchell characterized Rushkoff as "a technological evangelist who has consistently defended the utopian possibilities of new media." Rushkoff told Mitchell: "I think our technological progress is our moral progress."
Rushkoff wrote the prospectus for Cyberia on a flight to New York for a magazine-editing job; he had noticed that many of his college classmates who had been involved with psychedelic drugs were working in the computer industry in Northern California, and he wanted to explore possible links between the new information revolution and mind-altering drugs. Cyberia, set in the San Francisco Bay region, examines people whom Rushkoff sees as determined to re-define reality through "raves" (night-long techno-music and drug parties), paganism, hallucinogens, experimental art, and role-playing games. Computers figure prominently in these adventures, and modems establish communities of like-minded persons. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book a "provocative, wide-ranging survey of the current state of the interface between the longings of youth and the wild potentials of computer technology." In Media Virus!, Rushkoff argues that "the datasphere"—contemporary media-saturated culture—is susceptible to media viruses in the form of controversies, ideas, and events that spread quickly throughout the system. Some of the examples he provides are the televised police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and television programs such as The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. These media viruses are often subversive of established points of view and they can, in the words of Randall Lyman in the online magazine Guardian Lit., "infect our minds just as biological viruses infect cells." Unlike many, Rushkoff is not worried that the media are controlled by governments and corporations because what he calls "media viruses" allow viewers and listeners to challenge the status quo—they allow alternative ideas to infiltrate mainstream media.
In Rushkoff's 1995 work, Playing the Future: How Kids' Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos, he focuses on those young people who have grown up with computers controlled by computer "mice" and televisions operated with remote controls; with Barney the purple dinosaur and Power Rangers; with skateboards and snowboards—"screenagers" as Rushkoff calls them. According to Rushkoff they are the shapers of new, evolutionary environments in which change is constant and chaos is acceptable. They can process information faster than their elders, react more quickly, and understand the world on a much larger scale. In Playing the Future, Rushkoff asserts that "screenagers" can lead everyone else "past linear thinking, duality, mechanism, hierarchy, metaphor and God himself toward a dynamic, holistic, animistic, weightless, and recapitulated culture."
In his 1997 Ecstasy Club: A Novel, Rushkoff spins a tale about a small cult having round-the-clock "rave" parties in an abandoned piano factory in Oakland, California. Fueled by large quantities of drugs and armed with computers, they discover a method of time travel, only to realize that they have been beaten to the punch by a conspiracy of governments, corporate saboteurs, and religious zealots. Lyman stated: "At its most metaphoric, the book is a descent into the increasingly paranoid surreality of an acid trip."
In his 1999 work, Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say, Rushkoff argues that cyberspace has allowed businesses to become so much a part of our everyday lives that they are nearly invisible, making it hard for people to recognize what they are being "sold" and who is doing the selling. Writing for Booklist, David Pitt remarked that Rushkoff's book was a "very enlightening" exploration of how we are coerced on a daily basis.
Rushkoff returned to fiction with his 2001 novel Bull. Published in the United States under the title Exit Strategy: A Novel, the book is set in 2002. However, the premise is that the story was hidden online and left undiscovered until the year 2200. Exit Strategy is meant to be read from a twenty-third-century perspective when terms like "e-commerce" are no longer a part of the common vernacular. The footnotes used to explain these terms were contributed by online readers and added to Rushkoff's finished publication. A contributor to Publishers Weekly stated that Rushkoff's novel is as "daunting" as it seems.
In 2003, Rushkoff explored modern Judaism and the challenges it faces in Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism. The author argues that Jews need to find their way back to what he feels are the fundamental values of the religion. Library Journal contributor Marcia Welsh felt that the work, which has been called "controversial" by many critics, was "penetrating and provocative." The author did a complete literary turnaround in the next year when he ventured into the world of mixed media with the graphic novel Club Zero-G. Illustrated by Steph Dumais, the novel tells the story of an unpopular college student who finds companionship at a night club, only to learn that his place of refuge is not what it seems.
Following Nothing Sacred, Rushkoff published Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out, in which he argues that being successful in business is the result of internal focus rather than external hype. Rushkoff feels that showy marketing techniques shift attention away from the aspects of business that companies should really be concerned with, such as consumer needs and work environment. One Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Rushkoff has a "solid" premise for this work that challenges the traditional business model.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Rushkoff, Douglas, Playing the Future: How Kids' Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Booklist, August, 1999, David Pitt, review of Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say, p. 2000; March 1, 2003, George Cohen, review of Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, p. 1128.
Building Design, June 15, 2001, Alan Powers, "Historical Battle," p. 32.
Direct, September 1, 2001, Beth Negus, "Work In Progress," p. 6.
Harper's Magazine, January, 2000, John Brockman, interview with Douglas Rushkoff, p. 23.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1994, review of Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, p. 241; August 15, 1994, review of Media Virus: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture, p. 1106; May 1, 1996, review of Playing with the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids, p. 674; April 1, 1997, review of Ecstasy Club: A Novel, p. 497; January 15, 2003, review of Nothing Sacred, p. 32.
Library Journal, October 15, 1994, Judy Solberg, review of Media Virus, p. 76; August, 1999, Kent Worcester, review of Coercion, p. 124; April 1, 2003, Marcia Welsh, review of Nothing Sacred, p. 106.
New Statesman & Society, October 7, 1994, Laurence O'Toole, review of Cyberia, p. 48.
New York Times, July 9, 1996, Michiko Kakutani, review of Playing with the Future, p. C16.
New York Times Book Review, June 22, 1997, J.D. Biersdorfer, review of Ecstasy Club, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, February 21, 1994, review of Cyberia, p. 241; September 26, 1994, review of Media Virus, p. 50; May 6, 1996, review of Playing with the Future, p. 61; March 17, 1997, review of Ecstasy Club, p. 75; June 21, 1999, review of Coercion, p. 42; May 20, 2002, review of Bull, p. 52; March 24, 2003, Ted Howard, "Douglas Rushkoff: A New Look at Judaism," p. 18; November 14, 2005, review of Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out, p. 61.
Reason, April, 2000, Timothy Virkkala, review of Coercion, p. 70.
Club Zero-G Web site, http://www.clubzerog.com/ (January 6, 2006).
Douglas Rushkoff Home Page, http://www.rushkoff.com (January 6, 2006).
Guardian Lit, http://www.sfbg.com/lit/ (May 28, 1997), Randall Lyman, review of Ecstasy Club.
Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/ (January 6, 2006), Christian House, review of Bull.
Spike Magazine, http://www.spikemagazine.com/ (January 5, 2006), Chris Mitchell, "Lost in Translation, Interview with Douglas Rushkoff."