Present Shock

Months after reading Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock, possibly his best book yet, there is so much that continues to resonate.

Rushkoff, one of the world’s leading thinkers and media theorists explains that our digital devices have turned us from being led about by future expectations to being more present-oriented creatures. Crucially, our experience of the now is more fractured and even more schizophrenic than that of being fully present.

Here are just some of the best bits..


On the state of our our personal or professional lives:

“We may not know where we’re going anymore, but we’re going to get there a whole lot faster. Yes, we may be in the midst of some great existential crisis, but we’re simply too busy to notice.”

Reinforcing the point:

“This kind of post-traumatic stress disorder – a disillusionment, and the vague unease of having no direction from above, no plan or story. But like a dose of adrenaline or a double shot of espresso, our digital technologies compensate for this goal-less drifting with an onslaught of simultaneous demands.”


One our digital devices:

“Our digital devices and the outlooks they inspired allowed us to break free of the often repressive timelines of our storytelling turning us from creatures led about by future expectations into more fully present-oriented human beings. The actual experience of this nowness, is a bit more distracted, peripheral, even schizophrenic than that of being fully present.”

Expanding on his concept of Narrative Collapse:

“Through the lens of narrative, America isn’t just a place where we live but it is a journey of a people through time. Apple isn’t a smart phone manufacture, but two guys in a garage who had a dream about how creative people may someday gain control over technology. Democracy is not a methodology for governing, but the force that will liberate humanity. Pollution is not an ongoing responsibility of industry, but the impending catastrophic climax of human civilization.”

On our experience of time:

“There is stored time – the stuff that gets bound up by information and symbols. And then there is flowing time – the stuff that happens in the moment and then is gone. One needs to be unpacked. For the other, you have to be there. Stored time is more like a pond than a stream…the pond creates change within itself by staying still. The stream creates change beyond itself by remaining in motion. If we think of them as media, the pond contains its content, while the stream uses the earth around itself as its content.”

On choice:

“This freedom to choose and make choices is the underlying promise of the digital era, or of any new technology. Electric lighting gives us the freedom to choose when to sleep, asphalt gives us the choice where to drive our cars; Prozac gives us the freedom to choose an otherwise depressing lifestyle. But making choices is also inherently polarizing and dualist. It means we prefer one thing over another and want to change things to suit our sense of how things ought to be.

On the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills:

“They [The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills] seem to stare in wide-eyed disbelief at everything everyone says, but that’s only because they are staring, wide-eyed, all the time, by default. They have no choice; they cannot blink. In the quest to lock in their thirty-something looks [via plastic surgery], they also locked their faces in a permanent, confused glare.”

And if you’ve read this far good on you.  You can treat yourself to making a sandwich and hear it form the horses mouth.

Short on time? Go for this:


Long on time? Go for this: