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Present Shock: When Everything Happens Nowby Douglas Rushkoff
Synopses & 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 weve been waiting for, explains award-winning media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, but we dont 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 human bodies and minds can never truly in­habit. And our failure to do so has had wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives.
People spent the twentieth century obsessed with the future. We created technologies that would help connect us faster, gather news, map the planet, compile knowledge, and con­nect with anyone, at anytime. We strove for an instanta­neous network where time and space could be compressed.
Well, the futures arrived. We live in a continuous now en­abled by Twitter, email, and a so-called real-time technologi­cal shift. Yet this now” is an elusive goal that we can never quite reach. And the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock.
Rushkoff weaves together seemingly disparate events and trends into a rich, nuanced portrait of how life in the eter­nal present has affected our biology, behavior, politics, and culture. He explains how the rise of zombie apocalypse fic­tion signals our intense desire for an ending; how the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault. He examines how the tragedy of 9/11 disconnected an entire generation from a sense of history, and delves into why conspiracy theories actually comfort us.
As both individuals and communities, we have a choice. We can struggle through the onslaught of information and play an eternal game of catch-up. Or we can choose to live in the present: favor eye contact over texting; quality over speed; and human quirks over digital perfection. Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.
Absorbing and thought-provoking, Present Shock is a wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in real time.
"Whether or not readers are familiar with the concept of presentism — the theory that society is more focused on the immediacy of the moment in front of them (actually more specifically on the moment that just passed) than the moment before or, perhaps more importantly, the future — they've certainly felt the increasing pressure of keeping up with various methods of communication, be it texting, Web surfing, live interactions, or a litany of other media for staying 'connected.' Using Alvin Toffler's concept of 'future shock' as a jumping-off point, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff (Cyberia; Get Back in the Box; Media Virus; etc.) deftly weaves in a number of disparate concepts (the Home Shopping Network, zombies, Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns, Internet mashups, hipsters' approximation of historical ephemera as irony, etc.) to examine the challenge of keeping up with technological advances as well as their ensuing impact on culture and human relations in a world that's always 'on.' By highlighting five areas (the rise of moronic reality TV; our need to be omnipresent; the need to compress time in order to achieve our goals; the compulsion to connect unrelated concepts in an effort to make better sense of them; and a gnawing sense of one's obsolescence), Rushkoff gives readers a healthy dose of perspective, insight, and critical analysis that's sure to get minds spinning and tongues wagging." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
When online experiences dominate our lives, what gets lost?
Only one generation in history (ours) will experience life both with and without the Internet. For everyone who follows us, online life will simply be the air they breathe. Today, we revel in ubiquitous information and constant connection, rarely stopping to consider the implications for our logged-on lives. Michael Harris chronicles this massive shift, exploring what weve gained—and lost—in the bargain.
In this eloquent and thought-provoking book, Harris argues that our greatest loss has been that of absence itself—of silence, wonder, and solitude. Its a surprisingly precious commodity, and one we have less of every year.
Drawing on a vast trove of research and scores of interviews with global experts, Harris explores this loss of lack” in chapters devoted to every corner of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span. The books message is urgent: once weve lost the gift of absence, we may never remember its value.
A futurists in-depth look at the promise and perils of forecasting
An app on your phone knows youre getting married before you do. Your friends tweets can help data scientists predict your location with astounding accuracy, even if you dont use Twitter. Soon, well be able to know how many kids in a kindergarten class will catch a cold once the first one gets sick.
We are on the threshold of a historic transition in our ability to predict aspects of the future with ever-increasing precision. Computer-aided forecasting is poised for rapid growth over the next ten years. The rise of big data will enable us to predict not only events like earthquakes or epidemics, but also individual behavior.
Patrick Tucker explores the potential for abuse of predictive analytics as well as the benefits. Will we be able to predict guilt before a person commits a crime? Is it legal to quarantine someone 99 percent likely to have the superflu while theyre still healthy? These questions matter, because the naked future will be upon us sooner than we realize.
About the Author
Douglas Ruskoff's previous books--including Cyberia and Media Virus--have been translated into thirteen languages. He is the Technology and Culture Consultant to the United Nations Commission on World Culture and a regular consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and he writes a bi-weekly column for the New York Times syndicate. He teaches at the Esalen Institute and Banff Center for the Arts, and will be adjunct professor of Media Sociology at New York University in 1999. He lives in New York City.
Douglas Rushkoff is currently featured on ZDTV's "Big Thinkers" series. Check out the site at www.zdtv.com/bigthinkers.
Table of Contents
Introduction: They Say
Chapter One: Hand-to-Hand
Chapter Two: Atmospherics
Chapter Three: Spectacle
Chapter Four: Public Relations
Chapter Five: Advertising
Chapter Six: Pyramids
Chapter Seven: Virtual Marketing
Postscript: Buyer's Remorse
What Our Readers Are Saying
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