Venessa Miemis reviews Program or Be Programmed

A compelling review of Program or Be Programmed, from Venessa Miemis of Emergent By Design. The best summary of the most important ideas, by someone who has been thinking deeply about this stuff.



Thanks to digital technologies and networked activity, we’re living through a global transition that is redefining how culture and commerce operate. We’re presented with the opportunity to be active participants in this process, steering ourselves into new modes of civilization, verse being just passive spectators. But if we don’t understand the biases of the tools and mediums we’re using, we’ll risk being slaves instead of masters.

This is not the first time this has happened, but it may be the most significant one so far. Every media revolution has given the people a sneak peek of the control panel of civilization, and a chance to view the world through a new lens. When humans developed language, we were able to pass on knowledge and experiences, and allow for progress. We could both listen and speak.

When we developed alphabets and literacy, we were able to create laws and accountability, and a new kind of authority. Of course, it was the elites that knew how to read these symbols – the masses could just gather in the town square and listen.

With the invention of the printing press, a society of readers developed. But the elites still controlled the means of production, the access to the presses themselves. We’ve seen the same patterns with broadcast radio and television. We don’t create, we watch and consume.

Now with the digital revolution, we can finally be the writers, sharing our thoughts and opinions with each other through blogs, photos, and social networks. But we’re still a step behind from the “elites” – those that do the programming, write the software, design the interfaces, own the pipes, and understand that the way the tools are designed will influence and shape our real world thoughts and behaviors when using them.

And so here we are today, viewing the potential backwards: fetishizing the tools themselves and wondering how to advertise on and monetize from social networks, instead of putting humanity first, and focusing on how a connected society can open new possibilities for the way we work, create and exchange value, engage with one another, collaborate, and evolve socially and spiritually.