Today from 1-2 PM PDT, we'll be joined by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, whose new book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now is getting rave reviews and making people's heads explode. It's about how, in our media-saturated, data-driven age, we are no longer able to plan for the future because we're so stifled by the overwhelming demands of the now. Ask Rushkoff a question in comments below!
Rushkoff's book is riffing on the idea of "future shock," a term popularized by futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler in the 1970s to describe the sense that tomorrow was coming too fast. But now we're beyond that.
Here are the five major symptoms of present shock, according to Rushkoff on his website:
Narrative collapse - the loss of linear stories and their replacement with both crass reality programming and highly intelligent post-narrative shows like The Simpsons. With no goals to justify journeys, we get the impatient impulsiveness of the Tea Party, as well as the unbearably patient presentism of the Occupy movement. The new path to sense-making is more like an open game than a story.
Digiphrenia – how technology lets us be in more than one place – and self - at the same time. Drone pilots suffer more burnout than real-world pilots, as they attempt to live in two worlds - home and battlefield - simultaneously. We all become overwhelmed until we learn to distinguish between data flows (like Twitter) that can only be dipped into, and data storage (like books and emails) that can be fully consumed.
Overwinding – trying to squish huge timescales into much smaller ones, like attempting to experience the catharsis of a well-crafted, five-act play in the random flash of a reality show; packing a year’s worth of retail sales expectations into a single Black Friday event – which only results in a fatal stampede; or – like the Real Housewives - freezing one’s age with Botox only to lose the ability to make facial expressions in the moment. Instead, we can “springload” time into things, like the “pop-up” hospital Israel sent to Tsunami-wrecked Japan.
Fractalnoia – making sense of our world entirely in the present tense, by drawing connections between things – sometimes inappropriately. The conspiracy theories of the web, the use of Big Data to predict the direction of entire populations, and the frantic effort of government to function with no “grand narrative.” But also the emerging skill of “pattern recognition” and the efforts of people to map the world as a set of relationships called TheBrain – a grandchild of McLuhan’s “global village”.
Apocalypto – the intolerance for presentism leads us to fantasize a grand finale. “Preppers” stock their underground shelters while the mainstream ponders a zombie apocalypse, all yearning for a simpler life devoid of pings, by any means necessary. Leading scientists – even outspoken atheists - prove they are not immune to the same apocalyptic religiosity in their depictions of “the singularity” and “emergence”, through which human evolution will surrender to that of pure information.
Ask Rushkoff about these ideas, or anything else related to the overwhelming present — or the future! He also popularized the idea of "viral media" back in the 1990s, so feel free to blame him for lolcats if you want, too.
Just ask a question in comments, and Rushkoff will be here between 1-2 PM PDT today, and will answer as many questions as he can. Please be polite!