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Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,703 ratings  ·  225 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 huma
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 21st 2013 by Current
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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
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Kevin O'Donnell
May 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Stan Feckless
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, nonfiction
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.
Craig Jaquish
Apr 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 25, 2013 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
H Wesselius
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
I thought I would like this book a lot more than I did. I guess the big problem for me was that I just found the entire argument weak. In many instances, I just didn't buy the story he painted, and occasionally just didn't even quite believe the facts he laid out. In other cases, he seemed to attack what he calls "presentism" when I wondered if it was a bad thing at all.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Asks many interesting questions in situating our 'post-historical' technological present, within the wider historical and cultural context.

I struggled to find the first chapter convincing - regarding the abandonment of narrative in contemporary media (film, tv etc).

But the rest of it was super thought provoking. Even if it jumps around crazily from concept to concept, perhaps reflecting the vast scope of the issue Rushkoff is addressing -our multi nodal networked world - as well as admission tha
Sean Goh
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
First few chapters were more interesting, the back half of overwinding and the entire fractalnoia chapters were quite meh.
Information overload may not have increased the rate at which disasters occur, but it has exponentially increased the rate at which they are witnessed.

Toffler understood how our knowledge of history helps us put the present in perspective. We understand where we are, in part, because we have a story that explains how we got here. We do not have great skill in projectin
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think Rushkoff is onto something. Although there are a number of tangents within this book that I wasn’t convinced by (chronobiology for one), the central thesis is effective. ‘Present Shock’ is both title and theme: the stresses exerted on people through the perpetual immediacy of 21st century living. Rushkoff approaches this from various directions, organised broadly under four heading: ‘narrative collapse’, ‘digiphrenia’, ‘overwinding’, and ‘fractalnoia’. In each case, the problems that he ...more
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
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-fo
William Lawrence
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-science
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
Caroline Bock
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-6
(I've just pulled the last paragraph of my blog review - the only thing I'll add is to say that this is absolutely required reading for anyone with any tech device at all in their lives. Let's halt the present shock before it cripples us all.)

Although I did find a few flaws in some of Rushkoff’s arguments and while he occasionally is guilty of dressing up his thoughts a little too ostentatiously, it doesn’t really matter when the thoughts are so important. I want to recommend this book to everyo
Bob Gustafson
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it
"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
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: obom-candidates
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
Chad Post
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
George Slade
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
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,
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
James Cobo
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A frighteningly compelling read

I wish there were more books like this one which try to capture the dissolution of narrative in the modern era to compare this book to, but Present Shock stands tall even among that limited data set. An utterly transfixing read for anyone who feels that they've been part of a great - yet underdocumented - moment in the human experience.
May 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Very scattered. I appreciate the idea of Present Shock, but this book goes from politics to video games to history to politics again. It is written similar to our attention spans, all over the place. I wanted to just have the author write about one topic, but there are rabbit holes all over the place.
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Douglas Rushkoff is a New York-based writer, columnist and lecturer on technology, media and popular culture.

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14 likes · 8 comments
“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.” 7 likes
“Digiphrenia”—the way our media and technologies encourage us to be in more than one place at the same time.” 5 likes
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