I’m still pretty surprised I haven’t finished The Digital Divide yet! Normally I inhale books, but somehow my post-collegiate brain told me to don the hipster glasses and wax philosophical over some readings I found interesting. So hipster glasses away, and here is a critical observation/reading of a selection of three works by Douglas Rushkoff featured in the book: They Call Me Cyberboy(1996), The People’s Net(2001), and Social Currency(2003).
In several works by Douglas Rushkoff between 1996 and 2003, I have noticed an interesting perspective on the future of the internet and social currency.
In some of his observations, Rushkoff is dead-on. However in others, his predictions are blatantly inaccurate when compared against what is currently trending in society. Where he succeeds, is the idea if the internet being an integral source of networking and social relations. He cites the effect of viral videos, and how the internet paired with advanced technology to allow anyone the ability to produce and distribute video across the Web. We see this phenomenon in modern society in the uptick of “YouTube channels” and webisodes becoming common household names alongside mainstream cable TV.
However where his predictions falter are about mobile interaction. He states in Social Currency, that “people won’t use their cell phones to buy content anymore than they used their internet connections to buy content–unless that content us something that gives them a reason to call someone else”. Online storefronts such add Nasty Gal and Gilt have witnessed remarkable success, and many cellphones have transitioned into “smartphones”, ushering in mobile storefronts of iTunes, Amazon mp3, and mobile apps storefront capabilities.
What Rushkoff has failed to take into account is the amalgamation of business and mobility that has transformed how society uses cellphones. With the integration of music, games, and web capability, more and more smartphone users utilize mobile storefronts to purchase music, games, tickets, and “daily deals” through the use of companies like Groupon and Living Social. Some companies have even enabled customers to pay bills and make in-person purchases with their smartphones. The glee found in They Call Me Cyberboy at the prospect of a “digital life” seems to have largely vanished in society with the missed success of games like Second Life. Instead, rumored innovations such as the rumored “Google glasses” may give Rushkoff nightmares as big “dot.coms” seem to surge back to the forefront.