Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rushkoff-ing to Post the Korzybski Lecture

I'm not sure if anyone was uploading directly to YouTube while Doug Rushkoff was delivering his Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture a few days ago, but there were people recording it in audio and visual formats. Fordham students Jimmy Page, Doug Petrullo, and Gabriella Loutfi videotaped the lecture and symposium, and we'll have an edited version available at some point in the future.

But for those who can't wait, the New York Press has a post up about the lecture, and a link to download an MP3 recording of Doug's talk. I'll relay all the info for ya, got the 411 right here, but first let's get a picture of Doug out there:

There, that's the one they used in the article. He was dressed nicer for us, though. Anyway, here's what the posted article, written by Brian Heater, said:


Generational Semantics: Writer Douglas Rushkoff at the Institute of General Semantics Dinner

The writer and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff would, of course, have been remiss had he not addressed the polarized nature of his audience right off the bat. The front half of the room was monopolized by circular tables covered in white tablecloths, surrounded be gray-haired diners who had arrived at the Princeton Club at 6 p.m. to participate in the $90-a-plate meal. They made up a large portion of The New York Society for General Semantics, a 62-year-old offshoot of the Institute of General Semantics, which boasts the hopeful mission statement of, "improv[ing] one's ability to evaluate the world and one's place in it."

Let me interrupt by noting that while there were many senior citizens present at the tables, there were also a bunch of us middle-aged types, and also a few of the younger set. And while the New York Society for General Semantics was well represented, this was an Institute of General Semantics event, all of the NYSGSers were also members of the IGS, and there were many others from out of town who are only affiliated with the IGS (not to mention a number of us who are also members of the Media Ecology Association, but that's another matter). But this sort of mix-up is commonplace with reporters, so let's go back to what Brian was saying:

The list of previous speakers at the event included such diverse luminaries as Buckminster Fuller, Steve Allen, Robert Anton Wilson—a list on which, the club's acting president noted thoughtfully, Rushkoff's name surely didn't seem out of place.

Okay, um, sorry to interrupt again, but that was me, I said it, and I'm not the acting president, Marty Levinson is the IGS President and he ain't acting, I'm the acting executive director. Of the Institute, it's not a club, it's an institute. Yeah, I know, details, details. Ok, let's not put so much heat on Heater and listen to what he has to say:

Toward the back of the room were rows of chairs set up for the 8 o'clockers, those who poured into the room two hours later, forgoing that $90 meal, eager to watch the Ecstasy Club author in action. A motley assortment that were at least half the median age as those seated up in front.

"This is a really interesting mix," Rushkoff smiled, at the top of his speech. "The half over here came because you're members of the Institute of General Semantics and pay dues and get newsletters, and the other half of these people probably got a Facebook message…There's two very different paths. Of course they wouldn't have been able to come, were it not for the generosity of the [front] group. You guys, by paying your dues, made this possible. Instead of seeing your contribution as the privilege to get this thing, you decided that your contribution was about the privilege to share this thing."

It was a perfect entry point into a talk that would have no doubt immediately been written off as socialist rhetoric by "Joe the Plumber" and his ilk. Over the next two hours, Rushkoff traced the present-day economic collapse all the way back to the Renaissance and the birth of the self, largely succeeding in bringing the room's binary attendance together, save for the occasionally alienating video game metaphor—which, while effective in illustrating his points using references to programming language and mods, was no doubt a touch baffling to those finishing up their meals, scratching heads at references to virtual worlds. Still, in all it was a rather compelling talk by one of our most prominent counter-cultural media theorists, particularly when he referred to president-elect Obama (of whom Rushkoff admitted he was certainly a fan) as, "playing president." Whether or not you agreed with such sentiments, there was likely nary a person in the room not drawn in by Rushkoff's assertions.

Well, this guy likes Rushkoff, that's pretty clear, but then again everyone I spoke to about the lecture said that they thought Rushkoff was great, even if many also said that they didn't agree with everything he had to say. So anyway, if you want to see the post for yourself, click here. From there, you'll find a link to download the MP3 of his talk, or you can go directly to the page where you can download the file by clicking here, and you can hear for yourself and decide if he did a good job, and if you do or don't agree with what he has to say. It's not the same thing as being there, for one you've missed out on a very tasty dinner, but on the other hand it's great to have this available, especially so soon after the lecture itself. Sharing, like Doug said, that's what it's all about, and Korzybski was saying the same thing over 75 years ago!

No comments: