Author, media theorist, teacher, and winner of the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Douglas Rushkoff is well-known for his insightful books and documentaries about how cultures, people, and institutions shape values in the digital age. Since his 1994 observational book Cyberia, Rushkoff has often been at the forefront of digital counterculture. His latest book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, provides clear, actionable ways to master technology before it masters us.
Recently, Rushkoff collaborated with games production company Smoking Gun Interactive to create an experimental alternate reality game (ARG) and graphic novel “proof of concept,” Exoriare. After chatting very briefly about ARGs at the eBook Summit last week in New York City, I thought our readers would enjoy a more focused e-mail interview with Rushkoff about his experience with Exoriare, ARGs, and play.
This week, I attended the eBook Summit, an event organized by Mediabistro, GalleyCat, and eBookNewser, here in New York City, aiming to usher in the “New Era of Publishing” with a program of experts through a one-day extravaganza of digital publishing. Although geared more toward professionals in the “traditional” book publishing industry, a few overarching transmedia, digital, and storytelling themes emerged from talks by excellent mix of speakers, from agents to publishers to app developers, including Jason Ashlock of the Movable Type Literary Group and NYU Journalism professor and contributor to Fast Company, Adam Penenberg.
I was particularly enthralled by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s talk, “Ten Commands for the Digital Age,” giving an overview of his latest book Program or Be Programmed. He discussed the generational shifts in how people relate to their technology, making the point that the younger generation of so-called “digital natives” are not necessarily jumping into the industry as producers. So what bearing would this have on the future of consumption? To bring in an important first call to action in his book: “In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed. Choose the former, and you gain access to the control panel of civilization.”
BoingBoing suggested it. The Guardian praised it. Jay is Games recommended it. And now, I’m adding my voice to the resounding chorus: if you like alternate reality games, you should check out Smoking Gun Interactive‘s new transmedia experience, Exoriare. While the experience has only recently launched, it has already drawn together successful elements from a wide array of alternate reality games to create a compelling narrative.
Smoking Gun Interactive introduced their world through a graphic novel created by Douglas Rushkoff and drawn by in-house artists Cheoljoo Lee and Younger Yang. Rushkoff notes that the graphic novel serves as both the trailhead of “at least” one alternate reality game and as a back story for an upcoming videogame series. As he explains, “[t]his is a big big universe – a giant war for the future of humanity, of course – with maybe one overall timeline but many different pathways through the material.” Smoking Gun CEO John Johnson told The Guardian that Exoriare‘s story involves “hundreds of pages of backstory documentation, mixes ancient technologies, military conspiracies and that old favourite, covert alien invasion…[i]t’s sort of X-Files meets Dan Brown, with a dash of academic research.” Sold? Head over to Exoriare.com and begin the adventure. Still not sure? Read on to find out what to expect.