Coercion at Amazon.com
Why We Listen to What
by Douglas Rushkoff
Chapter 7: Virtual
Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say is copyright 1999 by
Douglas Rushkoff, and published by Riverhead Books.
"The larger question, of course, is whether persuasive
technology is a good idea at all when talking about turning a machine as
soulless as a computer into what is essentially a propaganda engine."
--Denise Caruso, The New York Times
"We sell audience, not content."
Jonathan Sacks, AOL
I really believed the Internet could put an end to
This was back in 1988, when I was still getting laughed at
for suggesting that someday nearly everyone would be using e-mail on a daily
basis. My first book on cyberculture was canceled in 1992 because the publisher
felt that the Internet would be a passing fad, "like CB radio," an editor
explained. Two years later, the book was finally released, but even then the
Internet was considered a relatively minor countercultural phenomenon some
weirdos in San Francisco playing around with computers because they couldn't
What I knew for sure back then was that the Internet would
somehow irrevocably change the way we relate to our media, and to one another.
Early signs showed that the change would be immensely positive. People would
finally have a medium for communicating freely with one another, instead of
merely absorbing the messages of advertisers. At least I was right about the
Early adopters of the Internet, like myself, attempted
desperately to gain credibility for what we saw as a revolutionary technology,
which meant welcoming, even pitching ourselves to, big business. To be backed
by an investment banker a Fortune 500 company gestures amounted to an
acknowledgment from all those folks who had once ridiculed our little Internet
society that we were the ones holding the keys to the future.
I used to laugh when the executives to whom I consulted
compared the Internet to television. TV is a one-way medium, I told them, while
the Internet is two-way consultation I did at Sony, where the VP who took me to
lunch kept referring to the Internet as "the next great broadcast technology."
I explained to him that what we were dealing with was a community-based medium
exchanging ideas and making new friends sushi. I smugly concluded that big
businesses hoping to master the Net didn't stand a chance. They would invest
their dollars in building infrastructures that they would never be able to
dominate. What had happened to TV just couldn't happen to the Internet.
We both were wrong. TV wasn't the right comparison telephone
were. Although the Internet would not provide businesses the means to broadcast
their advertising-sponsored entertainment to millions of people all at once, it
would allow them to communicate to millions of people, one at a time. It did
not extend the reach of broadcast advertising, but it would serve as an
inestimably powerful new weapon for direct marketing.
Although most current users missed out on the good old days
of the Internet, back in the late 1980s online interaction was as much about
sending as receiving. The primitive hardware and slow networks in use at the
time dictated that the Internet was limited to text-only transmissions. Users
would send e-mail, join in live chat sessions, or participate in asynchronous
discussions (exchanges that take place over long periods of time) on bulletin
boards and USENET groups. The few of us engaging in this new mode of
communication felt lucky, and even sensed that the Internet would bring us a
kind of liberation.
One of the reasons the early Internet spurred these utopian
visions was that, like ham radio had done in the 1930s, it offered amateurs the
opportunity to disseminate their ideas globally, except that now one needed to
learn only a few modem string commands instead of Morse code. In any case, the
Internet was less about the information being shared and more about contact. It
didn't matter whether we were discussing the global economy or "Star Trek"; it
was the means of discussion itself that felt so novel. Networked together
through wires and computers, the Internet community experiment.
The intensity of this sensation provoked proclamations as
outlandish and naïve as the best psychedelics-inspired rantings of the
1960s. Even Timothy Leary jumped onto the cyberculture bandwagon early,
proclaiming that the Internet would transform society more profoundly than LSD
had. To some, like cyber pioneer and Grateful Dead lyricist John Barlow, it
seemed as if the human race were hardwiring its members together into a single,
global brain. He and others waxed on about the Internet as if it were the
realization of the Gaia Hypothesis organism. Many believed that our fledgling
communications infrastructure would one day bring about global communication
and cooperation on an unimaginable scale. As my first book, Cyberia, came out
in 1994, I began speaking to universities and other groups about my starry
visions of this brave new world of online interaction. Even if these dreams
depicted Internet-enhanced society as a tad more fantastic than what it
ultimately would look like, they indicated the underlying experience essential
to our newfound interconnectivity: We did not feel we were interacting with
data, but with one another.
The Internet seemed so "sexy" not because of the pornography
that happened to be available online, but because people and their ideas could
comingle and mutate. A scientist sharing his new research could be challenged
and provoked, and then engage in immediate dialogue with his challengers. A
philosopher posing a new theory would be forced to defend it against criticism
coming from Hawaii or Helsinki. Nothing was safe, and nothing was sacred
opportunity to give voice to his or her opinions.
As the Internet grew in popularity, and more and more users
discovered how absorbing and rewarding it could be, media conglomerates began
to panic at the way interactive channels and constant feedback were eroding
their monopoly over the mediaspace. By the mid-1990s, the Internet already had
eaten away more than ten percent of the time its users previously spent
watching television, and the damage was increasing by the month.
Like covered wagons circling in defense against the
onslaught of an untamed, indigenous people, media companies banded together for
protection. Viacom bought Blockbuster and Paramount, which in turn bought Simon
and Schuster; Disney bought ABC which had already bought Capital Cities;
Murdoch's News Corp. bought Fox; General Electric bought NBC; Time Warner
bought CNN; and Westinghouse bought CBS. Once consolidated, these companies
were braced for battle.
Battle for Cyberspace
The war to retake the media, signaled by the creation of
these corporate behemoths, manifested itself in the trenches as a step-by-step
undoing of the processes that had liberated the media in the first place. The
effects of the keyboard, the joystick, and the remote control had to be
While cyber optimists like me were out proclaiming the
digital renaissance, other futurists with far better business credentials were
busy recontextualizing it for the consumption of Wall Street. As skilled as
they were at hyping interactive technology, they still had some tough questions
to answer before anyone would invest in their visions. How would anybody, other
than the phone companies, make a profit off people merely communicating with
one another? Television had commercials, and movies had an admission price.
People interacting online were not buying anything, nor were they in the
captive or anxious frame of mind that would render them easy targets. They were
having fun with one another.
This posed a serious challenge to those who wished to make
money online. They could either hope that the anticommercial ethic of the early
Internet would fade as more "mainstream" audiences found their way online, or
else enact a public-relations campaign designed to speed up that conversion.
The slow but steady process by which the Internet was surrendered to commercial
use falls somewhere between a real conspiracy and an inevitable, natural shift.
The key players certainly knew one another, and often developed their campaigns
jointly. But they were merely extending the already awesome power of the market
into a new arena. If market forces brought down the Soviet Union and the Berlin
Wall, they could surely break through the resistance of a few Internet users.
Their first job was to gain both public acceptance and
financial support for the appropriation of cyberspace. They had to convince
investors that there was a way to make money online, while showing Netizens
that business could make the Internet safer, cheaper, and more fully featured.
Who were "they," exactly? In some cases, they were young computer programmers
looking for ways to turn their formidable talents into rewarding careers. In
other cases, they were well-recognized but underpaid futurists, social
theorists, and economics philosophers looking to finally cash in on the many
ways they had foreseen the digital age. The rest were marketing gurus who had
already used television, the telephone, and direct mail with much success, and
sought to extend their reach.
Ironically, perhaps, it was my faith in the liberating
powers of cyberspace that made me one of the last people to take such efforts
seriously, and to reckon with the Internet's coercive potential. I saw the
computer keyboard and mouse as our best weapons in the effort to turn around
the mind-numbing impact of traditional media. Just as the remote control had
deconstructed the television image and the joystick demystified it, the
keyboard and mouse spawned a new generation of do-it-yourself media tacticians.
That's why, even as my opinions were being sought by corporations hoping to
exploit these technologies for their own ends, I was incapable of seeing where
their efforts would lead us.
In the early nineties, I attended several meetings at
HarperCollins (the book company that published Cyberia), in which some of the
executives running the company's new multimedia division wanted to know how to
leverage their vast backlist to gain a foothold on the Internet. Rupert
Murdoch's News Corp., which owned HarperCollins, already had an online service
called Delphi. Surely there was a way to "synergize" these two subsidiaries,
they thought. The question was simply how to go about it. Like most of the New
York companies looking to exploit the Internet, HarperCollins and Delphi
understood that the main thing they could offer consumers was content. "San
Francisco may own the interface," I remember one executive telling me, "but New
York owns the content." As long as content meant copywritten texts, of course,
he was right. If HarperCollins could turn the Internet into a distribution
channel for its massive storehouse of text, games, and other copywritten
materials, it could cash in.
After a year of publishing books in CD-ROM format, however,
HarperCollins's executives realized that these computer products were no match
for the thrill of live engagement with other human beings on the Net, and, by
1996, had reduced their multimedia division to a token, administrative
presence. Countless other companies followed suit. Something had to be done.
Although businesses had failed in their efforts to
capitalize on the initial surge in Internet use, the race was on to find a way
to make money online. Many different companies, working independently, arrived
at a similar strategy. The first step was to reverse the do-it-yourself
attitude that the computer keyboard had provoked, and restore the supremacy of
commercial content over social contact. The trick would be to change the
perception of the Internet as a communications medium to a broadcast medium,
which meant convincing users that our interactions with one another were less
important than the data we could download and the things we could purchase with
our new equipment. Accordingly, the work of futurists like Alvin Toffler and
Marshall McLuhan was mined for models and concepts that could reframe our
understanding of what was happening to us. That's how Information Age became
the label to describe the communications breakthrough. Previously, the users
themselves had been the content of the Internet. Now, it would be
In 1995, Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the
corporate-sponsored Media Lab at MIT and a major investor in Wired magazine,
drew a faulty but calculated distinction between online and real-world
interaction. He said that in the physical world, we exchange atoms, but that in
the online world, we exchange bits information age, chiefly characterized by
the fact that we now would exchange units of data rather than physical objects.
The problem with reducing online interaction to an exchange
of bits, and the interactive age to an information age, is that it allows
cyberspace to be quantified and, ultimately, commodified. The fact is that the
social and emotional substance of an online interaction cannot be described in
terms of bits of information. As far as the nomenclature of these cyber
theorists was concerned, a social dimension to online transmissions did not
exist. The Internet was not something a person engaged with; it was a set of
information that could be accessed. And anything that can be accessed can be
given a price tag.
The second stage of the transformation was the
remystification of the media, which had been demystified by the advent of
interactive devices like the joystick and the remote control. Wired used busy
graphics and wrote in a buzzword-laden style, stoking newcomers' fears that the
Internet was technically complex and conceptually daunting. Without proper
instruction, users would surely get lost out there. Meanwhile, more mainstream
publications like Time magazine, themselves threatened by competition from the
many news services sprouting up online, ran frightening cover stories about
"cyberporn." The New York Times reported that innocent people were jeopardizing
their health by taking advice from online holistic practitioners, while
drive-time radio fed us stories about dangerous computer viruses the software
companies selling us protection from these evils.
Once the Internet was seen as a danger zone best traveled
with the help of experts, it wasn't long before a mediating filter known as
World Wide Web became the preferred navigational tool. Unlike bulletin boards
or chat rooms, the Web is opaque. You can't see through it to the activities of
others. You don't socialize with anyone when you visit a Web site; you read
text and look at pictures. This is not interactivity. Like a fake decibel meter
at a basketball game where the crowd is led to believe its cheers are actually
moving the needle, there's nothing truly participatory about it. Although
anyone can publish his ideas on his own Web site tremendous leap for
self-publishing to conversation. But only by compromising its communicative
function could the Web's developers turn the Internet into a shopping mall. The
sole interactive outlet that remained for most users was the back channel of
Further aiding the effort to remystify new media, designers
made the programs necessary to navigate the Web more complex than earlier
tools. The original Internet was built and navigated by researchers and
university students using "shareware" free. These simple programs worked on the
most primitive computers, and they functioned in a transparently
straightforward fashion. Their no-frills designs and freely published code
helped users understand how they were put together and allowed anyone to
participate in their development and offer enhancements. The original Internet
was a "shareware universe," expanded and maintained chiefly by its own
By 1995, Netscape had become a for-profit company, and the
"browser wars" were under way. An ethic of free-market competition replaced the
era of freewheeling cooperation. As if to rewrite history, many Internet
experts and journalists developed a mythology that the Internet was developed
not by university researchers but by the United States military. A widely
circulated article by cyberpunk author and Global Business Network member Bruce
Sterling implied that the Internet was just an extension of the Defense
Department's effort to maintain a communications infrastructure in the event of
a nuclear war. Although the true history of the Internet, and the military's
rather indirect contribution, were later recounted in Katie Hafner and Matthew
Lyon's 1997 book Where Wizards Stay Up Late, the damage had been done. The
Internet would forever be associated with the Cold War arms race, and it's
communitarian roots could be discounted more easily. Anyone who wrote articles
disagreeing with the folklore of a military-built Internet or the virtues of a
competitive marketplace was quickly labeled a "leftist."
As profit-seeking software companies took over where
shareware developers left off, programs became correspondingly less efficient
and less accessible. The code for software was no longer routinely released to
the public for us to modify or improve. Even if it had been, these new programs
were much too convoluted for the average user to understand. We were once again
at the mercy of the companies from whom we bought our equipment and software.
Newer versions of software required newer versions of operating systems, which
in turn required newer and more powerful computer chips and increases in RAM
(memory). People who wanted to use the Web were initiated into an endless cycle
of upgrades. In a campaign of planned obsolescence that made the 1970s
automotive industry's schemes look like child's play, computer manufacturers
and software companies conspired to force more and more purchases. Imagine if
automobile companies controlled the designs not only of vehicles but of the
roads. By changing the kinds of surfaces we drive on, they could force us to
buy new kinds of tires, and then new kinds of cars on which those tires fit.
Similarly, Microsoft can use proprietary code to develop Internet sites that
require new kinds of browsers, browsers that require new kinds of operating
systems, and operating systems that require enhanced hardware.
The dominance of the World Wide Web also gave traditional
entertainment companies, salespeople, and advertisers an Internet they could at
last understand. From now on, the Internet would be treated like the broadcast
media they had already mastered. The entertainment industry began to invest
heavily in online video and music services in the hope of one day being able to
charge people money for receiving such goods via the Internet. Salespeople
understood that Web sites gave them a way to put their entire catalogs of
merchandise online, and that secure credit-card transactions would allow
customers to purchase whatever they wanted without leaving their homes.
Marketers were delighted by the development of a more tractable mediaspace in
which to peddle their wares. They bought space on the most heavily trafficked
Web sites for slick "banner" ads to be clicked on, diverting Internet users to
commercial Web sites.
The third way marketers co-opted the interactive mediaspace
was through the manipulation of shortening attention spans. Although online
real estate is essentially infinite, the willingness of human beings to sift
through it in real time is not. Reviving a term coined by social scientist
Herbert Simon in 1971, the new economists announced that we had entered an
"attention economy," where the only limiting factor on the business community's
ability to earn money online was the number of "eyeball-hours" they could wrest
from an Internet user. New methods of attention control to Internet portals who
had grown used to the freedom of the mouse and remote control. Meanwhile, all
this focus on attention spans and resistant youth led to a flurry of news
reports about attention deficit disorder, which in turn prompted worried
parents to seek medications like Ritalin for their children so that they could
compete effectively in the complex and highly accelerated marketplace of the
Mice in a Maze: Pacing and Leading Online
But an Internet run by commercial interests means more than
just customized banner ads and spam. It is a world more contained and
controllable than a theme park, where the techniques of influence can be
embedded in every frame and button. Microsoft has an entire department
dedicated to "Decision Theory and Adaptive Systems" interfaces. Although much
of the department's work is geared toward creating more user-friendly
interfaces, my contacts at the company claim the much-shrouded division's true
purpose is to determine the decision points in online behavior and how to
manipulate them effectively.
The field of pacing and leading through computers has been
dubbed "captology" by B. J. Fogg, a Sun Microsystems researcher who studies the
effects of interfaces on human behavior. Like a travel map provided by the AAA,
complete with instructions on where to stop for food and accommodations, the
interfaces and software we use can direct our actions and even our purchasing
decisions. The display on GTE's Airfone screen plane Theoretically, a
cellular-phone display screen could be programmed to do the same thing database
of your most frequent calls.
A screensaver program available online for certain
Hewlett-Packard color printers encourages the purchase of more HP products. As
technology critic Denise Caruso reported in her New York Times column,
The virtual pet for the computer desktop encourages users to
make multiple original copies on the printer instead of duplicating the
original printout on a color copier. This, in turn, keeps them buying more of
Hewlett's color inks....The larger question, of course, is whether persuasive
technology is a good idea at all soulless as a computer into what is
essentially a propaganda engine.4
Today, we don't even have to venture onto a computer to be
drawn into closed systems of electronic coercion. A best-selling book called
The One to One Future instructs marketers how to customize direct marketing in
order to create the same kinds of consumption loops. For example, in the
one-to-one future that the authors envision, all of our retail purchases will
be recorded in a series of personal databanks. A "diet data bank" would use the
UPC bar codes scanned at the checkout line to record our supermarket purchases.
Diet-conscious customers could be identified through their patterns of
consumption, and even given their own portable scanners. With these devices in
hand, they could stroll through the aisles, scan the UPC bar codes on different
packages, and read a computerized display of the products' nutritional content.
Of course, the store would also accumulate a complete record of every product
that the customer evaluated, in what order, for how long, and whether he chose
to buy it.
This designer consumption would amount to a nearly hermetic
feedback loop between each consumer and his marketers the customer's taste is
mirrored and then slowly led toward progressively more extreme manifestations
of itself. It is a recipe for technologically induced obsessive-compulsive
behavior, as our desires are repeatedly amplified and then fed back to us. The
one-to-one future differs from the marketing we're subjected to today only in
its speed and specificity.
Perhaps this process is easier to comprehend when it happens
in reverse. Shopping channels on cable television feature hosts whose dialogues
and presentations may appear bizarre to unaccustomed viewers. Actually, their
odd, mechanical behavior is shaped moment-to-moment by the rate of telephone
purchases. As anyone who has watched one of these channels knows, the number of
items sold is continuously tallied in a small box in one corner of the screen
since the number is displayed on a monitor in the studio, so the host making
the pitch can determine how his tone, language, and style of delivery are
influencing the number of sales. If speaking faster makes the number increase
more rapidly, he will maintain his accelerated rate of speech, as long as it
keeps working. In this way, the host becomes a kind of automaton, stuck in a
feedback loop where his only goal is to make that number increase.
Like the host on a shopping channel, the people turning
media into an electronic marketplace aren't fully conscious of what they're
doing. By using the Internet to automate their business models, they have
combined the force of the market with the power of the computer to amplify the
blind effects of each. Commercial media seems to have taken on a life of its
own, dedicated to selling more goods to more and more people in less and less
time. Although human beings set the whole process in motion, it's as if once
they built the engine, they abandoned the throttle and all the other controls
to the machine itself. It has been running on automatic ever since.
As the average consumer becomes a cog in this media machine,
he finds himself succumbing to the pressures of the inevitable network
externalities that emerge. Our slow acceptance of a commercial Internet was
just such a process.
Call it the MovieFone syndrome. At first, the telephone
ticket service seemed like a terrific convenience. It was novel and fun.
Instead of waiting on long lines at the box office, we could find out show
schedules and secure our seats ahead of time, all from a touch-tone phone for
just a few dollars per ticket. Once a critical mass of moviegoers signed on to
this technology, however, refusing to use the service and pay the extra charge
meant the strong possibility that our movie selections might be sold out.
Anyone who couldn't find a way to get to the theater well before show time was
gently forced to buy the tickets through the service, whatever the cost. Now
some telephone ticket services allow callers to reserve the seats they will sit
in, effectively creating a new class of moviegoer. Those who wish to have good
seats charge. What began as a convenience quickly became a necessity bring the
price of a movie ticket above ten dollars.
The MovieFone syndrome demonstrates the darker side of
network externalities increases with its wide acceptance. Something that begins
as a novelty, like a telephone ticket service or a version of an Internet
browser or even a kind of direct-marketing technique, soon becomes so widely
accepted that those who don't partake begin to lose their ability to enjoy, to
engage in, and to discriminate between the things society has to offer. People
who don't learn to use the money machine at the bank are penalized with a
reduced number of live tellers and longer lines. People who don't opt for the
expense of cable television miss their local sports teams' broadcasts. And
similarly, those who don't participate in the world of online commerce may be
risking financial and cultural obsolescence.
Take Microsoft's online commercial strategy, sidewalk.com.
Ostensibly a guide to restaurants, movies, and other attractions in America's
major cities, the online service is designed to become a "point of purchase"
for these forms of entertainment. Users click through friendly databases of
information until they find the restaurant they want to go to, and then make
their reservations online. In some cases, users will pay a small service
charge, while in others the restaurant or business may pay Microsoft directly
for the publicity and exposure to new customers.
Since Microsoft makes the dominant Web browsing software,
many of the features of their Sidewalk site take advantage of their own
proprietary software, or of membership in their proprietary online service. As
more users take advantage of the convenience of the service, the law of network
externalities will come into effect, making the service software necessary for
accessing it will eventually need to be upgraded, as will the computers to run
that software. Consumers will spend more time and energy paying for new
equipment and software, then learning how to operate it, just so that they can
participate in the same sorts of activities they did before.
And the people who can't afford all this? They'll either be
left out of the loop completely or choose to take advantage of the many free
and discount online services currently being offered. Of course, these free
Internet packages require that the user sit through commercials and promotions.
The poor pay for their access by submitting to more marketing. Those better
off, meanwhile, pay cash for the privilege of commercial-free commerce.
Once Microsoft begins to offer electronic forms of currency
and credit complete. We are dependent on the software, the machines, and the
monetary scheme in order to participate in our culture, and the company
providing it to us takes a profit at each level. Because Microsoft and its
competitors are private companies, accountable to no one (unless they are found
to have broken laws), the consumers have no recourse. Although, in theory, we
can "vote with our dollars," we risk isolation or worse. Buying computers with
alternative, incompatible operating systems cuts us off from the network.
Unless we jump off together, in large enough numbers, our protests hurt no one
What began as an egalitarian set of channels quickly became
a direct feeding tube for advertisements and a self-contained environment for
automated commerce. In an attempt to limit the abuse of the networks by con
artists and relentless marketers, Internet service providers implemented new
technical protocols that restricted the open functioning of the Internet, which
ultimately sent Netizens to the closed communities of large commercial
providers with their own business agendas. Mainstream media outlets, surviving
on the revenue from hi-tech advertisers and their own parent corporations'
new-media subsidiaries, lead the public relations effort by spinning this
disaster as a Long Boom for big business. After all, the global economy itself,
banking on the future prosperity of expanding hi-tech markets, is depending on
it. Like well-trained propagandists, they warn of the dangers of noncompliance,
the horrors that await those who refuse protection, and the glorious future for
all who get with the program.
The current direction of Internet technology promises a
further calcification of its interactive abilities. Amped-up processing speed
and modem baud rates do nothing more for communication than speed things up.
They do, however, allow for the development of an increasingly TV-like
Internet, making the Sony executive's dream of the Web as a broadcast medium a
reality. As we buy bigger computers and faster modems, we simply expedite the
arrival of set-top computers and interactive television.
The only obstacle I've seen to the implementation of
Web-enhanced TV as "convergence media" have Internet access on our televisions,
we might choose to tune in to noncommercial Web sites or, worse, interact with
other users instead of watching the major networks' programming. When I
consulted to a subsidiary of TCI about developing content for their @Home
broadband cable network fully interactive set of TV channels through which
viewers can play games and make purchases their own content and away from
It was the prospect that the Internet would end up being
just another theater of operations for the media wars that provoked my
colleagues and me to publish a document called Technorealism in 1998. Most of
us had been using the Internet for years but had found we just weren't enjoying
it anymore. Nowhere could we find people championing the technology without
also pushing what had become the party line of corporate capitalism. Our aim
was to correct the many myths dominating discussions of new media, without
giving up on the Internet's still-unrealized promise as a tool for
communication. Perhaps a set of policies could be developed that returned the
expansion and use of these networks to public or even civic control. When my
friend who writes about technology for Time magazine found out I had signed on
to Technorealism, he was aghast. "I reserve judgment," he said in our first
phone conversation after the document's publication, "but I think you're crazy
to put your name on that thing."
Still, no matter how dark things have seemed, I can't help
but be optimistic about where this evolution of virtual coercion may ultimately
take us. Perhaps the thousands of signatures on the document are an indication
that I'm not alone in my disillusionment about how these technologies are being
used, and how little control we seem to have over them.
And, of course, I never would have thought to write about
the techniques of coercion in the first place had I not witnessed them being
practiced by a machine. I don't know if I ever would have come to grips with my
own participation in their development if I hadn't seen them applied so
aggressively in the electronic marketplace. Like watching a time-elapsed scene
from Godfrey Reggio's hypnotic documentary Koyaanisqatsi, where the daily
motions of a chaotic city suddenly make rhythmic sense, experiencing the
warp-drive cycles of computer-automated coercion provides a new kind of
perspective on a very old art.
In the worst case, by pacing and leading ourselves into
abject despair, we may force ourselves to find remedies more profound than
Prozac. We may choose to take the time to distinguish between what we're told
and what we really want. We might even find a way to think for ourselves.
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