Mind, Machine, Molecules and Media

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Psychedelic Island Views Vol. 4 (1998) No. 1

Early in any trek for a degree in communications, Marshall McLuhan pops up. Yet, despite his importance, McLuhan's most well-known work was published in 1964. By the mid 1990s, the mass comm world needed a fresh face--someone able to bring McLuhan into the Internet age, expand upon his theories and introduce a new perspective. Douglas Rushkoff earned that role with his 1994 book Media Virus! and was thus labelled "a hip and caustically humorous McLuhan for the 90s."

In 1997, with several important books on communication and culture under his belt, Rushkoff turned to a sci-fi-psychedelic work with Ecstasy Club, a wonderful, weird read that grasped tightly upon my impressionable mind. The significance of this was bolstered by the fact that he was also being discussed in the classroom as I began my path to a degree in communications.

Clearly a fanboy at that time, I emailed him and quickly asked for an interview opportunity. (This could have turned into an amazing story for my advanced comp course, but the assignment at the time did not match so I ended up writing a research report on the Church of Scientology...meh.)

While chatting with psychedelic activist/organizer/publisher Bruce Eisner, I mentioned my ongoing interview with Rushkoff. Apparently he'd previously written a story about Timothy Leary and the psychedelic origins of the personal computer revolution for Eisner's Psychedelic Island Views magazine. Eisner found the idea of having an outsider such as myself interview an author who'd contributed to his magazine compelling, so he asked to publish it. The resulting interview ran the gamut from Ecstasy Club to questioning authority, from nootropics to Scientology.

Rushkoff's influential insights into culture and communications have expanded greatly since the time of my interview, and I tried to keep in touch every so often because he was such a damned nice guy.

Fast forward to 2007. The association/business magazine at which I was responsible for features and columns needed an innovative monthly columnist--preferably someone from outside of our industry--to thrust some seriously thought-provoking content at our readers. I believe I pitched Rushkoff to the other editors as "McLuhan of the 90s" (which felt odd since we were well past the 90s...and some in the room weren't familiar with McLuhan), the editor in chief was open to trying him out for a few months and Rushkoff got on board. He ended up writing for the magazine for more than four years, winning a couple of business publications awards in the process. He also spoke multiple times at the association's conferences.

Yet it wasn't until the conference in 2012, some 14 years after I first interviewed Rushkoff, that I finally met him in person and gave him a big hug.

Bruce Eisner put out a few more issues of his magazine, which was technically a publication of the Aldous Huxley-inspired nonprofit Island Foundation that he created in 1998, before seemingly vanishing. (I've read that the Island Foundation never filed tax returns and quickly lost its nonprofit status, so maybe that had something to do with it.) Eisner died in January 2013 while working on his next publishing venture, the book Future Culture: How to Make New Memes to Change the World.

UPDATE: It was an absolute hoot to learn that the subjects of my first two published interviews, Dennis McKenna and Douglas Rushkoff, got together 15+ years after I made those early journalistic endeavors for a joint discussion at The Riverside Theatre. Listen to the two-hour-long chat as these two brilliant minds discuss their news books, evolved perceptions of time and space and other thought-provoking topics.