Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finding time for life and "Life Inc."

Summer reading: I think it was the Frontline documentary "Merchants of Cool" that first put Douglass Rushkoff's reporting and analysis on my radar. I hope I can make time this summer for his new book, Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back. The book is a call for small-scale activism, for local community, for "reconnecting with real people, places, and value."

(Will people will only see the first two words of the title and assume it's about a photo magazine, a breakfast cereal, or a board game?)

Here's a "Merchants of Cool" crossover observation from one of the Life Inc. online chapter excerpts:
"With no other choice available, we grow up partnering with corporations for our very identities. A kid's selection of sneaker brand says more about him than his creative- writing assignments do, and is approached with greater care."
Along with the sample chapters, this is the first book I've noticed using online video previews... (The first one starts with a 15-second burst of tuning-across-the-dial static, which almost convinced me the clip or my Web connection was faulty, but the noise goes away.)

Episodic videos on Vimeo:

Life Inc. Dispatch 01: Crisis as Opportunity from Douglas Rushkoff on Vimeo.

More at

A blurb from another of my favorite authors:
“Read this book if you want to understand how the current economic meltdown started 400 years ago, how so much of what you consider to be a natural evolution of daily life was carefully designed to profit a few, and how corporatism has so colonized every part of life that most of us don’t even recognize how our lives and fortunes are channeled and manipulated by it. Rushkoff is going to be attacked as a communist, but that gets his point wrong. Look at his references — he has meticulously documented his argument. I love that Rushkoff isn’t afraid to think big — very big. He took on the media more than a decade ago. Then he took on Judaism. But now he’s chosen a larger target — the corporation.” -- Howard Rheingold - author, Smart Mobs

So, is Rushkoff out to start a movement? I'd say yes, but he says no -- at least from the excerpts I've skimmed -- that the whole point is to work close to home, "reinvesting in local reality"...
"We’d each like to launch a national movement, create the website that teaches the world how to build community from the bottom up, develop the curriculum that saves public schools, or devise the clever antimarketing media campaign that breaks the spell of advertising once and for all... The temptation to save the whole world—and get the credit—comes at the expense of steps we might better take to make our immediate world a more fruitful, engaging, sustainable, and satisfying place."

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