I’m going to go out on a limb here and promise you that this will be the first of two posts on Present Shock, the Douglas Rushkoff book that has been getting a mountain of attention in the tech press since it was released earlier this month.
The second post will be an in-depth discussion of the book, and I hereby pledge that it will be unveiled two weeks from today. There. Made a promise and barring that thresher accident I’ve been fearing since I was 14, I’ll be keeping that promise.
This post, however, is my surface review. You see I finished the book a week ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to, either. In fact I don’t really want to do anything these days except talk about the book with other people who’ve read it. Which is why Present Shock is this week’s edition of THE WEEKENDER.
The essential thesis of Present Shock is this: time is out of joint. The digital technologies that we have woven so deeply into our lives have a different relationship to the concept of time than the human brain does. No human can multi-task as efficiently as a computer can, and our attempts to do so are driving us a kind of crazy.
Rushkoff frames the book around five symptoms of the sickness that is present shock he perceives: narrative collapse, digiphrenia, overwinding, fractalnoia, and apocalypto. As he lays out his case he examines both our dysfunctional relationship to technology and strategies that we, as individuals, can use to take more control over that relationship.
What each of these symptoms involves is one of the points of the book, which I’ll let you discover. The names, thankfully, are pretty evocative.
I’ve been reading Rushkoff’s work for almost two decades now, but this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to turn around start re-reading the book almost instantly. At then end of this close read (which I just committed to being in two week, yikes!) I’ll come back here and discuss. Join me, won’t you?