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Is the Internet Destroying Our Lives or Enriching Them?

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Posted on January 31 2010 7:20 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here

My friend Douglas Rushkoff, author of the must-read book Life Inc., has a new documentary on PBS on February 2 at 9:00 PM EST. It’s called Digital Nation and is about the effects of the internet on our culture and lives.

Salon has a story worth reading which interviews Rushkoff about this new project.

Let’s see, so the digital revolution led us all to this: a gigantic, commercial, high school reunion/mall filthy with insipid tabloid trivia, populated by perpetually distracted, texting, tweeting demi-humans. Yes, the information age truly is every bit as glorious and special as everyone predicted it would be!

Apparently our futuristic “Blade Runner”-esque digital dystopia is so bewildering that even Internet “big idea” man Douglas Rushkoff is currently reconsidering his unconditional love for new media in Frontline’s “Digital Nation” (premieres 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, on PBS, check local listings), an in-depth investigation into the possibilities and side effects of our digital immersion.

“I want the luxury of being able to push the pause button, you know,” Rushkoff, one of the producers of this 90-minute report, muses to the other producer, Rachel Dretzin, as the cameras roll. Rushkoff says he wants to “really ask whether we’re tinkering with some part of ourselves that’s a little bit deeper than we might realize at first. You know, how are we changing what it means to be a human being by using all this stuff?”

….

“It may be decades until we know what living in a state of constant distraction will do to us,” offers Rushkoff,

….

But don’t worry, everyone! “For all of the moments of isolation the digital may promote, there’s also a chance for engagement,” Rushkoff says. “So I guess that means you can still count me among the faithful!” With that chirpy conclusion, Rushkoff shuts off his computer and heads outside to his garden.

I’m not quite sure yet what to make of these thoughts. (I think I’ll wait until after watching the documentary to comment more in depth.)

Since I began editing NRB full time in August I’ve been immersed in the internet for the vast majority of my waking hours. And I’ve been so focused on building a competitive, engaging, widely-read publication that I’ve had little time for self-reflection on this web-centric way of living.

Jeez, Doug, you had to break my appreciation for corporations with your last book. Now are you going to ruin the internet too? Kidding. Sort of.

I’ll have more thoughts on this after “Digital Nation” airs on February 2 and — just as I did with Life Inc. — I’ll have some commentary on how Doug’s arguments relate to the issues we focus on here at the DHFC of the Left vs Right battle, the media, and the American Idea.

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