JB: But you were always looking straight ahead.
RUSHKOFF: No, I was looking at the stage set. I don't know how many other kids were watching television in this way, but I certainly credit it with launching my inquiry into how media was put together. Why is it put together the way it is? You have to take it apart to find out.
JB: Let's talk about the so-called "human communications revolution".
RUSHKOFF: I don't know that I believe in revolution as much as renaissance. So many people talk about this computer revolution where the individual user is empowered to express himself, break down obsolete institutions, or topple the corporate-industrial monoliths. It's an unnecessarily polar and combative vision. And once it's reduced to the idea of empowering individuals, all those individuals start looking a lot more like consumers beating the "system" than autonomous human beings. It devolves quickly into "one-to-one marketing." I prefer to look at moments like the one we're living through as renaissances as rebirths of old ideas in a new context.
JB: Did you say "self" expression? How does a self express itself. Are you talking about "Just Do It"?
RUSHKOFF: In the best light, I suppose "Just Do It" is renaissance of a sort, isn't it? A great credo, reasserting the power of individual will. But I think "Just Do It" is a reductive and dangerous substitute for a philosophy of life. As far as Nike is concerned, "Just Do It" means just pressing the "Buy" button. "No, kid, you don't have to think. For God's sake, don't think about it. Just do it!"
The most dangerous thing about the immediacy of our terrific new media communications tools is that the idea of consideration has been taken out of the equation. We're supposed to be able to have an instantaneous response. We take polls of public responses to Clinton's speeches before they're even over as if we're supposed to know how we feel before we've had time to think. When we get an e-mail, we tend to feel we are obligated to respond to its query right away, without having time to think about it.
The most dangerous thing about a "Just Do It "society is that it compels us to act on reflex not intention. We are led to believe we are acting from the gut. That we are somehow connecting with our emotions and bypassing our neuroses. But this isn't true at all. We are merely moving impulsively. It's not from the gut. And the more impulsively we act, the more easily we can be led where we might not truly want to go. People who act automatically are the easiest to control by marketers, by anyone. There's less intention and thus less life involvement.
I used to think, this acceleration of human action was a great thing. I thought we'd simply bypass our restricting editorial voices, get our superegos out of the way, and behave in that purely spontaneous, wonderful fashion that all human beings would behave in if uncorrupted by social and institutional biases.
JB: Remind me...the superego?