Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (2013)

17 April 2013, dusan

“‘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Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault.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.”

Publisher Current, a member of Penguin Group, NY, 2013
ISBN 1101608242, 9781101608241
256 pages

review (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
review (Paul Miller, The Verge)
review (Anthony Wing Kosner, Forbes)



7 Responses to “Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (2013)”

  1. metamagical on April 17, 2013 2:14 pm

    Thanks :)

  2. Douglas Rushkoff on April 17, 2013 3:01 pm

    Gosh, I wish people wouldn’t do this. I am happy to buy books for people if they can’t afford it or, better, to buy it for their local library so that many people can borrow it. But I just don’t support anonymous stealing like this.

  3. cloudonshore on April 17, 2013 4:04 pm

    Douglas, I wouldn’t have heard of you otherwise. Take that for what it’s worth I guess.

  4. anonymouscoward on April 17, 2013 4:41 pm

    Douglas: This is a sore point. I agree that anonymous stealing is a dubious practice, and people really should make an effort to reward others’ hard work. And it is problematic that creators should be expected to police their own work this way. That being said, I’ll admit to using this site (and certain others similar to it), and I genuinely think society as a whole gains from open dissemination of culture.

    I use this site for its fantastic collection of out-of-print and seminal writings on culture, as well as to check out things that might relevant for me in my line of work, many of which I later go on to buy. It really is an amazing repository of culturally important things, in the vein of UbuWeb – or, for that matter, a YouTube that is filled with music and film clips that is probably copyrighted.

    Anyway, I won’t prozelytize further, the arguments are old and well-known to us all. Hopefully, we will be able to find models of rewarding creative work while making culture available to as many as possible – and soon. I know the only music and movies I download these days are the out-of-print sort, the rest I get from various subscription services. It’s probably just another instance of the everything-at-once mentality you write about in your book.

    This doesn’t help a lot, but I just bought your book at Amazon, so if you feel like donating it to someone else you won’t lose (much) money doing so.

  5. dusan on April 17, 2013 5:51 pm

    Dear Douglas, to respond to your point, this is indeed a place visited by many people around the world who can’t afford to buy yours or other books for economic or political reasons (this being why we don’t track our visitors). I am not here to blame you for trying to stop people from sharing your work, you may have your other private reasons, so if you insist that the link is taken down we will respect it.

  6. jose chaves on April 22, 2013 10:43 pm

    Dear Douglas
    It’s your book and I can understand your point. But what you call stealing it’s a work of solidarity and love. A lot of authors would have disappeared, lost in libraries, if weren’t redeemed by the anonymous work of the community of their lovers and admirers. Live authors need love and admiration also, not only the dead ones. Being alive, all it’s a question of gift, rewarded latter ten times more… even in money.

  7. stuart studebaker on April 23, 2013 8:38 pm

    Mr Rushkoff:

    Article 27 – United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

    2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.


    Part 2 follows part 1 because part 1 is an inalienable right. Part 2 is not. You do not get full recompense for every sale. Your contract with your publisher indicates that you only get a part of any sale, and likely, that is a very tiny part of the sale. This indicates that your right to profit from generating this knowledge is an alienable right, and thusly secondary to someone’s right to the knowledge.

    If you don’t like that deal – where you must submit to the vagaries of capitalist markets in order to put food on your table – then join with us all in the struggle to achieve a socialist system in our life times. Heck, we could use a good leader. If we don’t succeed ASAP, there is this ugly industrial strength feudalism waiting in the wings. Intellectually, ask Drahos, he wrote a book about it. Politically, go visit Detroit which has been in a corporate dictatorship for over a month.

    Oh, and I bought the tree killer version of your book AFTER I read about half of the epub version (it’s on my desk right here as I type this). It’s a really good book, thank you for writing it.

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