“Digital Nation”

Posted by Rob Walker on January 30, 2010
Posted Under: "Social" studies

I’m interested in this upcoming Frontline installment, Digital Nation, partly because the correspondent is Douglas Rushkoff. I started a while back to write a post here about his most recent book, Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back, but for various reasons never completed that, and I guess never will. So I’ll just give you the short version: I read it some months back and found it quite interesting and certainly provocative. I’m not really that well-read on Rushkoff’s work, but based on what I (thought I) knew, it was not what I was expecting.

And while the book seems to have done well, I’m surprised it didn’t generate more mainstream discussion and reaction. That’s too bad because there’s a lot to discuss and react to. The most interesting aspect of it to me was the underlying argument that history since, say, the 1600s is not just a march of progress, but rather has also entailed some extremely significant losses along the way. I read this between reading Margaret Atwood’s Debt, and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, so it hit on lots of things that have interested me lately. I even started listening on occasion to Rushkoff’s show on WFMU, Media Squat (now on hiatus) and that included some interesting discussions, notably the episode with Howard Bloom. But since most of his guests kind of see the world the same way he does, I still end up feeling a little frustrated — phrases like “bottom up” and “create real value” get tossed around a lot as if their meaning was obvious, and not contestable. It would have been useful if the book had attracted reaction from a broader range of sources, because I have a feeling that would have been provocative, too.

Anyway so it’s because of all this that I’m interested in Digital Nation — which I think under normal circumstances is something I would have shrugged off as likely-to-be-predictable. I’m curious of the ideas he seemed to be wrestling with in Life Inc. will manifest here.

On a possibly related note — related to digital life, anyway — Mind Hacks notes two bits of research of note: BPS Research Digest summarizes a study looking into how people with certain offline personality traits behave online. (Best line: “Students who scored high on psychoticism were also likely to say that they found it easier to reveal their true selves online than face-to-face.” Hmm, great.) And this earlier study finding consistency between online and offline social behavior. Maybe that all sounds sort of obvious, but keep it mind when you hear gurus generalize about social-Webness affects “everybody.”

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Comments are closed.