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Douglas Ruskoff's previous books--including Cyberia and Media Virus--have been translated into thirteen languages. He is the Technology and Culture Consultant to the United Nations Commission on World Culture and a regular consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and he writes a bi-weekly column for the New York Times syndicate. He teaches at the Esalen Institute and Banff Center for the Arts, and will be adjunct professor of Media Sociology at New York University in 1999. He lives in New York City.
According to Rushkoff (Cyberia, Media Virus!), advertisers and marketers are becoming increasingly adept at finding new ways to coerce consumers into buying unwanted products. "The more complex, technological, and invisible coercion gets," he writes, "the harder it is for us to rely on" our ability to detect the hard sell. "As soon as we become familar with the new terrainÄbe it the mall, the television dial, or the InternetÄit is the goal of the coercion strategists to make it unfamiliar again, or to lure us somewhere else." Rushkoff is particularly interested in the ways that corporations and other for-profit institutions have drawn on underhanded techniques developed by cults, pyramid schemes, dishonest salesmen, and the public relations industry. The good news is that ordinary people "have the prerogative to stop, to think, and to disengage." Lively and well researched, this is recommended for public and general libraries.ÄKent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan Coll., New York Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Until recently a cyber-optimist who, in popular books like Cyberia and Media Virus, augured a digital revolution, Rushkoff now warns that the promise of the Net as an open-ended civic forum is fading as relentless corporate marketers peddle their wares and capitalize on shortened attention spans. In a scathing critique that extends far beyond cyberspace in scope, Rushkoff identifies the subtle forms of coercion used by advertisers, public relations experts, politicians, religious leaders and customer service reps, among others. Retreading territory covered by critic Neil Postman and others, Rushkoff provides additional examples of how the ordinary person is often unsuspectingly manipulated, whether in the shopping mall, at a sports event or in a Muzak-drenched store or office. This analysis is particularly strong when deconstructing the "postmodern" techniques of persuasion that advertisers use to reach increasingly cynical target audiences, including commercials that self-consciously mock the marketing process. Rushkoff also argues that mass spectacles (e.g., rock festivals, Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, Promise Keepers rallies) foster "tribal loyalty" but are often contrived, commercial or downright destructive. He devotes a chapter to pyramid schemes used by cults, infomercials, Internet con artists and get-rich-quick marketers. His freewheeling survey underscores the social cost of these coercive strategies, which, he says, tend to make us see one another as marks. Despite his up-to-the-minute examples, however, his overall analysis is not fresh or original enough to take the place of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"With immense force and inimitable style, Douglas Rushkoff takes us on an engaging, frightening, and oddly exhilarating journey into the boardrooms where compliance professionals hone their skills. "Coercion" is destined to be remembered as a watershed in the battle between the marketing industry and the public it means to manipulate." -"Wired " "An important book... a clear warning to Americans who are unaware of the power of words to intentionally mislead the reader, listener, or viewer. Read this book, and nobody gets hurt." -Senator Bob Kerrey "A scathing critique that extends far beyond cyberspace in scope." -"Publishers Weekly" "The most disturbing book of the year... Be careful where you log on." -"The New York Post" "Unmasks a culture of hype and deception." -"Vibe" "The most disturbing book of the year...Be careful where you log on".-- New York Post