Douglas Rushkoff's "Present Shock" in the NYT

Old-school bOING bOING pal Douglas Rushkoff has a new book out this week, Present Shock, and it received a rave review in the New York Times! Congrats, Doug! From Janet Maslin's NYT review:
NewImageThe ancient Greeks learned about the hero’s journey from Homer’s narratives. We’ve gotten decades of Homer Simpson, who “remains in a suspended, infinite present,” while his audience moves from one satirical pop-culture reference to the next. Citing “Forrest Gump” as a film that failed to combat late-20th-century feelings of discontinuity and “Pulp Fiction” as one wild enough to usher in a new era, Mr. Rushkoff moves on to what came next: the video game open-ended structure that keeps TV drama in the eternal present. About “Game of Thrones” he says, “This is no longer considered bad writing.” Changes to news presentation are even more dramatic. This book describes the present shock of politicians who — thanks to the 24/7 coverage ushered in by “the CNN effect” that began in the 1980s — “cannot get on top of issues, much less get ahead of them.” He notes that both the political left (MSNBC, with its slogan “Lean Forward”) and right (conservatism devoted to reviving traditional values) share this goal: They’re trying to escape the present.
Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff (Amazon)

"Out of Time: The Sins of Immediacy" (NYT)


  1. As an aside, in a lot of ways, Pulp Fiction is a lot more straightforward movie than Forrest Gump, at least once you realize Forrest is the American everyman, and he’s not a smart man. Which of those movies resembles a relatively unchanging character suspended in front of a series of pop culture references? Gump is the new era, Pulp Fiction is the throwback.

  2. Traditional magic and mystery shows used the indefinite present as one might expect. The battle with Satan was always ongoing. Of course, it has always been a popular structure and lets the artistic team reuse the good stuff while keeping the show up to date. Then, as now, this kind of media was pernicious. A typical inquisitorial witchcraft trial transcript would have the defendant confessing that the devil then appeared looking just the way he did in the magic and mystery shows.

    Having been bombarded with “this time it’s diffferent” for all too many years now and having read a bit of history, I get the impression that every time is different and absorbing the present always involves a combination of shock and boredom.

  3. Spiderman was in high school in the 1960s and didn’t reach his 30s until the mid-90s.  Then Marvel rebooted their whole universe so he could be young yet again.  How is this “infinite present” a new concept?  Also, Game of Thrones is pretty great writing for TV, not sure why Rushkoff is taking a swing at it.  Judging from the context it doesn’t look like he’s talking about the books either.  

    1. Game of Thrones is pretty great writing for TV
      Great writing “for TV”? In an era of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, why should GoT get some kind of quality discount just because it’s on television as well?

      1. Breaking Bad is undoubtedly the best written show on TV, but every show isn’t Breaking Bad and shouldn’t try to be.  Game of Thrones is very good and I’m not sure why Douglas Rushkoff would single it out for disdain.  There are lots of examples of terribly written shows, but Game of Thrones?  Really?  That’s where he goes to make his point?  As far as giving it a “quality discount” just because it’s on TV, that’s ludicrous.  The vast majority of TV is, IMHO, not good.  I consider Game of Thrones a quality show.  Maybe you just prefer drama over fantasy, that’s your hang-up.  There’s nothing wrong with magic, sword fighting and court intrigue.  

        1. I publish fantasy. Professionally. And I think Game of Thrones is just awful. Clearly lots of other people disagree, but saying I’m prejudiced against the genre is just knee-jerk defensiveness on your part and wildly off target. I’ve only watched the pilot, and I was embarrassed for every woman on it. I’ve never seen cheaper excuses to get women out of their bodices. One look at the brother-sister pair and I said, We’ll be seeing them having sex within 10 minutes. One look at the kid climbing the wall, and his mother’s ham-fisted warning about it, and you know he’s ground-bound. The writing is clumsy and expositional. The directing is derivative and obvious. It’s yet another fantasy in which wearing a sword or a bodice somehow requires using an English accent.

          If this is good fantasy, god help fantasy.

  4. ‘digiphrenia’, it’s also what we made as a piece of art a while back, virtually ignored thus far. Whatever.
    i love it when i can back my shit up with credence from the big guys – best served cold, as they say…
    I used to be 7 or eight years ahead, now I’m down to three – this is good, maybe one day I’ll be right on time (with my luck, it’ll be probably just as I’m about to die, I’ll come up with the coolest thing ever).

    from January 2010*, 
    (sorry flash haters, and please turn off all other streams, radio, video):

    * you gotta get past the gatekeeper to get in, and the gatekeeper’s name is Alil’ Patience:
    created with the brilliant aid of a rookie but excellent flash developer, (DanKs!), this non-professional piece needs a couple of minutes to load – 
    it’s a large flash file full of too much information on purpose. made on NO budget. 
    it’s important to click the i button and read how to control the thing (once you figure it out, and get it cooking, there’s NOTHING like it, anywhere.)
    it also helps while it’s loading to roll over any video that starts to play on its own (to stop that vid and allow for the rest to load)
    no one will ever replicate what you watch/create, not even you. it’s got built in narrative obsolescence… 

  5. A self-conscious acknowledgement of the “suspended, infinite present”, from “Family Guy”;
    Stewie (protesting that he’s NOT getting too old for a teddy bear)” Brian, I’;m one!

    Brian: Still?

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