By Douglas Rushkoff
(Current Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781591844761, 256pp.)
Publication Date: March 21, 2013
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If the end of the twentieth century can be characterized by futurism, the twenty-first can be defined by presentism.”
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, explains award-winning media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, but we don’t seem to have any time in which to live it. Instead we remain poised and frozen, overwhelmed by an always-on, live-streamed reality that our human bodies and minds can never truly inhabit. And our failure to do so has had wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives.
People spent the twentieth century obsessed with the future. We created technologies that would help connect us faster, gather news, map the planet, compile knowledge, and connect with anyone, at anytime. We strove for an instantaneous network where time and space could be compressed.
Well, the future’s arrived. We live in a continuous now enabled by Twitter, email, and a so-called real-time technological shift. Yet this now” is an elusive goal that we can never quite reach. And the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock.
Rushkoff weaves together seemingly disparate events and trends into a rich, nuanced portrait of how life in the eternal present has affected our biology, behavior, politics, and culture. He explains how the rise of zombie apocalypse fiction signals our intense desire for an ending; how the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault. He examines how the tragedy of 9/11 disconnected an entire generation from a sense of history, and delves into why conspiracy theories actually comfort us.
As both individuals and communities, we have a choice. We can struggle through the onslaught of information and play an eternal game of catch-up. Or we can choose to live in the present: favor eye contact over texting; quality over speed; and human quirks over digital perfection. Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.
Absorbing and thought-provoking, Present Shock is a wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in real time.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, PH.D., is a world-renowned media theorist whose twelve books, including Life Inc and Program or Be Programmed, have won prestigious awards and have been translated into thirty languages. He is a commentator on CNN and a contributor to the Guardian, Discover, and NPR. He also made the PBS documentaries The Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders, and Digital Nation. He advocates for digital literacy at Codecademy.com, and teaches at NYU and The New School. He lives in New York with his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Mamie.
In Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, Douglas Rushkoff cautions against living in the perennial, virtual now. "It's very hard for us to orient ourselves," he says, "to look forward to things, to join movements with goals, to invest in the future." More at NPR.org
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“This is a wondrously thought-provoking book. Unlike other social theorists who either mindlessly decry or celebrate the digital age, Rushkof f explores how it has caused a focus on the immediate moment that can be both disorienting and energizing.”
—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
“Rushkoff gives readers a healthy dose of perspective, insight, and critical analysis that’s sure to get minds spinning and tongues wagging.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In this refreshing antidote to promises of digital Utopia, Rushkoff articulates his own well-informed second thoughts. We should pay close attention—while we still can.”
—George Dyson, author of Turing’s Cathedral and Darwin Among the Machines
“If you read one book next year to help you make sense of the present moment, let it be Present Shock.”
—Anthony Wing Kosner, Forbes.com
“Present Shock holds up new lenses and offers new narratives about what might be happening to us and why, compelling readers to look at the larger repercussions of today’s technologically mediated social practices, from texting to checking in with a location-based service, jet-lag to The Simpsons, in new ways.”
—Howard Rheingold, author of Net Smart
“A wide-ranging social and cultural critique, Present Shock artfully weaves through many different materials as it makes its point: we are exhilarated, drugged, and consumed by the now. But we need to attend to the future before us and embrace the present in a more constructive way.”
—Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together
“With brilliant insight Rushkoff once again gets there early, making us confront the new world of ‘presentism’—the shif t in our focus from the future to the present, from the horizon-gazing to the experience of here and now. He points to signs of presentism all around us—in how we conduct politics, interact with media, and negotiate relationships.”
—Marina Gorbis, executive director, Institute for the Future