Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” as Want to Read:
Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  925 ratings  ·  171 reviews
“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 hu
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 21st 2013 by Current Hardcover
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Present Shock, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Present Shock

The Lean Startup by Eric RiesRework by Jason FriedDrive by Daniel H. PinkGetting Things Done by David AllenThe Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Codecademy Recommended Reading
22nd out of 38 books — 26 voters
To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny MorozovPresent Shock by Douglas RushkoffNet Smart by Howard RheingoldNetworked by Lee RainieOn Writing Well by William Zinsser
2nd out of 7 books — 2 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I should like Douglas Rushkoff. I have a feeling that in fact we agree over a great many things, and share many of the same concerns. But every time I try to read him I fail, and often quit before the piece is even halfway through. With this book, I finally understand why: his ideas are interesting, but I don't think he knows how to structure an argument well. His writing is full of many of the tricks of rhetoric - the sentences sound as though they should be persuasive - but they're never imple ...more
Kevin O'Donnell
Gave up on this midway through the second chapter, which is actually more than a third through the whole thing. I almost never quit books. (Perhaps because I am too selective up front?) This one, however, I gladly spurn.

First 100 pages were okay but rambling, disjointed, speculative, grabbag, etc.

Eventually though I couldn't stomach how much attention was being paid to pseudoscientific blather. And all of it sort of glossed over with an air of respectability. I lost the trust I had in the author
I agree with other reviewers that this book is disjointed, and it's obvious that it took many years to write (I noted, for example, that many of the illustrations in the first chapter are more than a decade old). Despite those elements, I do think this book is worth reading and its ideas worth thinking about, whether or not one ultimately agrees with the author. The basic topics:

1. Narrative Collapse - Pop culture becomes more now-ist and self-referential beginning in the late 1980s-early 1990s
A word of warning: if you read this book, you're going to have to accept that media theorists do not have to present empirical evidence to argue a point. Examples here are cherry-picked from a vast landscape of television shows and websites and films, without mention of base rates, variance, statistical significance, and other figures that scientific types (such as myself) rely on to make sense of data. Of course, lack of any real evidence doesn't stop Rushkoff from making claims about causality ...more
Don Tapscott
Back in the BlackBerry's heyday, a new habit in restaurants became known as the “BlackBerry prayer.” Those at the table would hold their BlackBerrys in their laps, trying to inconspicuously respond to a steady stream of e-mails and texts. No matter how engaging the table conversation, the BlackBerry offered the potential of a different and more interesting topic.

Today, the prayers still happen, but they now occur non-stop with iPhones and Android devices. Rather than savouring our current place
67 pages into this book and my mind is blown- Rushkoff draws clear connections between changing media practices, the loss of a narrative structure in society, an increase in fear within the media, the Occupy Wall street movement, and gaming culture. Seemingly unrelated issues come together in a panorama of understanding . Looking forward to the delights in the rest of the book.
It's hard to say what Present Shock is exactly, both in the flattering way that it packs a lot in and in the negative sense that it’s lacking a lot of precision. It's not quite a polemic, but it’s more provocational than Alvin Toffler's drier Future Shock. In the '90s, Ruskoff says, we were all leaning forward into the future, wanting to know what was next, but when Y2k passed and planes didn't fall from the sky and elevators didn't stop between floors we realized we were here, we had made it in ...more
Mark Dickson
Going into this book, I expected something quite different. I think I was expecting something more succinct and cohesive, something that would help articulate why the increasing pace of life makes (many of) us increasingly uncomfortable, anxious, and unhappy.

What I found, though, was just as good. Rushkoff's interests and intellect span a number of fields--economics, technology, politics, philosophy, and history. And he handles each field cogently.

While I didn't have any specific sticking points
Mar 25, 2013 Valentina marked it as to-read
I just heard about this book on NPR from an interview with the author himself, Douglas Rushkoff, and what he speaks about in this book really hit home to me. I've been having a problem dealing with how I relate to my friends online. I cannot perfectly transition between the past and present when there is no forward thinking and no certainty as to where relationships stand as of now, too. There seems to be no time online OR offline to enjoy "relating" to anyone. This symptom falls into what Rushk ...more
Stan Feckless
Ironically, Rushkoff’s expository style in Present Shock is often unfocused, fragmented, and seems to suffer from a diminished attention span just like the social phenomena that he is attempting to critique. Some of the arguments presented are intriguing at first blush, but end up disappointing because they are never fully explored or supported. The book ends up reading like a hyper-linked miscellany of conspicuous media and technology stories.
Awesome. Classic Rushkoff ... this books argues that our Twitter-like, always-on behavior is altering the way our very minds work ... and our concept of time itself. Very fascinating stuff, highly recommended (I'm a huge Rushkoff fan already -- read nearly all of his books). If you like media analysis combined with ancient myths and technology, synthesized amazingly into a seamless braid, you've love this.
Bob Gustafson
"Life, Inc." by Douglas Rushkoff may be the best book I have read by a living author. Based on that alone, I bought and read "Present Shock".

Rushkoff examines four facets of life in the digitized twenty-first century. I was halfway through reading about the second, digiphrenia, when I began to understand the first, narrative collapse. There is no narrative to Present Shock. This stands in contrast to Life, Inc. which was an historical narrative. What this book is, is a collection of observations
George Slade
I started this book yesterday (01/05/2014) and finished it today. (01/06/2014) That should tell you all you need to know about how captivating it was. The author, Douglas Rushkoff does a great job of simultaneously entertaining, informing, and provoking introspective and global thought. It got me questioning not so much "how" I interact with the world around me, but "why" I interact it with it, in such a way.

It left me pondering if I should perhaps change some habits that seem so second nature,
Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff picks up where Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) left his generation, disoriented by rapid technological and social change, just coming to understand that the past would no longer be a guide to the future. Now, Rushkoff points out, the narrative has collapsed altogether in favor of the reality show. The “now” demands our full attention--our instantaneous texts and tweets and trades and always-on smart phones tracing our steps, inst ...more
That's it! We have arrived in the future. Rushkoff's books is an allusion to Alvin Toffler's 1970 warning FUTURE SHOCK. Do we travel by jetpack or date robots? Not yet, but I guess you could say the potential is there.

What I found most troubling was the first chapter of Rushkoff's book, in which he does little more than encyclopedize examples for what he mourns as "the narrative collapse." Rushkoff posits that our need and value in traditional (read "linear") storytelling has ceased in wake of o
W.K. Lawrence
Rushkoff's "Present Shock" accurately describes the problems with attention deficit and the shift to an emphasis on the immediate. Chapter one, my favorite, will make you want to jump out a window. At the core of this book is an important point about our changing society as a result of TV and technology: you are being controlled. But Rushkoff's argument becomes a little scrambled along the way and you are unsure of whether he is actually justifying the present shock and promoting collective thin ...more
Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
Douglas Rushkoff
Read it in hardback at 256 pages

As an employee of a large software distribution company, I see what Douglas Rushkoff calls 'Present Shock' on a daily basis. While most people can certainly relate to Rushkoffs example of the dinner/bar situation in which everyone you met to mingle is instead on their cell phone, that hits home for everyone, after all; who hasn't experienced this yet? I have seen some fantastic things, most notably people s
Rushkoff talks several times (including in a meta-discussion about why he's even writing a book in the first place. “How anachronistic!”) about how no-one actually reads books any more —all that really matters is getting the gist, and the quicker the better.

But, even though he could instead have written “dozens of articles, hundreds of blog posts, and thousands of Tweets, reaching more people about more things in less time and with less effort”, he thought it was worthwhile to take the long-for
Caroline Bock
May 16, 2013 Caroline Bock rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Caroline by: Anyone who read Future Shock and realizes the future is now.
PRESENT SHOCK: When Everything Happens Now -- a short excerpt from this amazing nonfiction book is telling --

“Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always on. It’s not a mere speeding up, however much our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now – and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is. … it’s why the worlds leadi
Chad Post
This brings together bits from some of Rushkoff's recent books, grouping them under the rubric of "Present Shock"--the situation of our present day in which everything is happening all at once, altering the way in which media, corporations, people, process information and think about past and future. It's an interesting starting point that leads to some fruitful observations about how society works. I particularly like the "fractalnoia" section, and the one on narrative collapse. This review is ...more
This book contained a very engaging set of observations about how the ubiquitous presence of technology is changing our culture, relationships, and our perception of time. One idea I found fascinating was the author's observation that technology constantly overstimulates us with choices, and this transforms us into an unending role of decision making. Yet, digital choices are rarely distinguishable in their significance, so we often get lost in a sea of unimportant busyness. As we continuously u ...more
H Wesselius
An uneven read. His examples and stories are what kept me going despite the urge, several times, to return the book to the library. In some instances he repeats old concepts especially the collapse of the narrative and other times his theorizing is so off beat its doubtful anyone wrote of it before or will later. Narrative collapse, the first chapter, is the best in terms of writing and thought. The third, overwinding, is interesting and the last, apocalyptico, is fascinating but speculative. Ve ...more
I had to return this book to the library before I could finish it, but I really liked it. The author is writing about what it means in modern society to be plugged in: the constant barrage of information coming in on Facebook feeds, Twitter feeds, email, text messaging, etc. He also assigned interesting terms to the various phenomena he identifies as results of this "present shock."

I really enjoyed it and look forward to getting my hands on it again so I can finish reading it. Highly recommended
I really didn't get what this guy was going for at all. He seems to have a pretty well rounded understanding of topics like peak oil, climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, resource depletion, exploitation of indigenous groups, problems with overusing high-tech crap, economic issues and the alternatives to those issues but for some reason still spends most of the time explaining how to better adapt to the things that are causing these problems. And the whole book he tries making these p ...more
I got to this book because it was mentioned by Mark Kingwell on RN's Philosopher Zone's podcast dedicated to the "hipster philosopher". Answering a question on the speed of time and how it just seems to be standing now because of its actual rate of becoming, Kingwell mentioned the methaphor of the aerotraffic controller used by Rushkoff in this book to describe the way most (or rather stereotyped) users of instant media like Twitter and Facebook seem to act or their minds seem to be busy like. T ...more
Mark Lisac
Enough of a disappointment that I considered a two-star rating. Offers some interesting ideas (or in some cases expands upon ideas already in the air); e.g., about the collapse of time and narrative, and about fragmentation of attention. The expositions tend to have a grab-bag feel. They also sometimes get swamped by whatever buzzwords Rushkoff wants to sell in that chapter.
The surprise that will leave some readers thinking "Really?" time and again is his penchant for sweeping historical pronoun
My first thoughts after reading this book were "I need to read this again". But then I read a few other reviews and realized the difficulty I had in following Douglas Berkhof is shared by many other readers. The downside is that the chapters and themes are disjointed and too wide ranging. He overanalyzes perspectives on time from multiple disciplines truly tying them together in some type of synthesis Entertaining, but not necessarily persuasive. The author bombards the reader with interesting i ...more
Reading "Present Shock" I couldn't escape the sense that Rushkoff is preaching to the choir -- not only with the ideas he espouses, but the way he espouses them. Take this sentence: "An op-ed in the New York Times may as well be a column on the Huffington Post, which may as well be a personal blog or a Twitter stream." It's a fairly trivial statement in the course of the book. What matters is that Rushkoff writes this as if anyone reading will naturally agree or understand -- but I don't. What t ...more

1. Some ideas in PRESENT SHOCK by Douglas Rushkoff are worth serious contemplation.

2. Author has thought a lot about the world we are living in.

3. He has also read a lot (check out the bibliography) and sometimes just serially summarizes what he's read.

4. Author is not critical in an overwhelmingly negative way; his commentary is more matter of fact.

5. Not especially long.

6. Author's got credible, related experience.


1. Academic tone. Dry in some places. Drier in other place
The premise of Doug Rushkoff’s Present Shock is that our notion of time has changed dramatically in recent decades – our focus is increasingly on the here and now and this is leaving us discombobulated and unmoored. It’s a premise that is likely to resonate with anyone struggling to keep up with the 24 hour news cycle, Twitter feeds, their email inbox(es), etc.

The big ideas in Present Shock are compelling enough:
- Narrative collapse: people have long used narratives and stories to make sense of
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Narrative collapse 4 9 Apr 08, 2014 03:52PM  
  • To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  • No Sense of Place: The Electronic Media on Social Behavior
  • Myth of the Machine : Technics and Human Development
  • Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age is Revolutionizing Life, Business, and Society
  • Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership
  • Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed
  • Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection
  • You Are Not a Gadget
  • Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom
  • The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
  • Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires
  • The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better
  • The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves
  • Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages
  • MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Sign, Storage, Transmission)
Douglas Rushkoff is a New York-based writer, columnist and lecturer on technology, media and popular culture.
More about Douglas Rushkoff...
Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say Ecstasy Club Media Virus!: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture

Share This Book

“Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always-on. It’s not a mere speeding up, however much our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now—and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is.” 2 likes
“If you go back and look at the historical record, it turns out that a lot of important ideas have very long incubation periods. I call this the ‘slow hunch.’ We’ve heard a lot recently about hunch and instinct and blink-like sudden moments of clarity, but in fact, a lot of great ideas linger on, sometimes for decades, in the back of people’s minds. They have a feeling that there’s an interesting problem, but they don’t quite have the tools yet to discover them.” Solving the problem means being in the right place at the right time—available to the propitious moment, the kairos. Perhaps counterintuitively, protecting what is left of this flow from the pressing obligation of new choices gives us a leg up on innovation.” 1 likes
More quotes…