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RUSHKOFF: Well, I wrote three loud books about the promise of new media. I honestly believed I was writing them for what I conceived of as the "counter-culture" ­ or at least for people who sought to use these technologies for positive, thoughtful cultural evolution. I told the story of how our tightly controlled media was giving way to a more organic, natural mediaspace. Media used to obey only the laws of Newtonian physics. It was a top-down affair where gravity ruled. People like William Randolph Hearst or Rupert Murdoch could make decisions from the tops of glass buildings, and then their messages would trickle down to the rest of us through one-way media.

But now, thanks to computers and camcorders and the Internet and modems, the media has been forced to incorporate feedback and iteration. It has become a truly chaotic space ­ a dynamical system. Remember the famous example of chaos, the butterfly that flaps its wings in Brazil causing a hurricane in New York? To me, that butterfly was Rodney King ­ whose beating by LA cops, captured on a camcorder tape and iterated throughout the datasphere, led to riots in a dozen American cities. I wrote Media Virus to announce that the time had come where we could launch any idea we want — whether it's as a media virus, or in a usenet group ­ the power is in our hands again, let's go for it. I wrote books about how young people understand media better than adults, and are already using it in new, exciting ways.

JB: And then you found out that all the kids were filing for their IPOs. And you find out there is no counterculture. And you can't buy a real cotton shirt in Palo Alto.

RUSHKOFF: Yeah, I learned all those things, and I learned them most frighteningly when I was invited to a convention sponsored by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the 4 A's. They wanted me to talk to them about media viruses and youth culture. I was thrilled. I prepared a talk about how advertising is over, and that their tyranny over young people had come to an end. They should give up their coercive ways. When I arrived, there were signs and hand outs: How to use Media Viruses to Capture New Audiences ­ that sort of thing. People were coming up to me and congratulating me about my role in launching controversial Calvin Klein ads that I had nothing to do with. Or so I thought.

I suddenly realized that the people who had put my books on best seller lists were not those Mondo 2000-era hackers and Internet homesteaders I so admired, but rather the public relations and advertising industries. I had been selling "cool" to corporate America. My books were primers, required texts for young executives on how to take advantage of new media to do the same old thing they were doing before. That's when I realized that we were in an arms race, and that I was just as caught up in it as everyone else.