Douglas Rushkoff
Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:00 P.M., City Light Bookstore, San Francisco



discussing his new book

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

from Current, an imprint of Penguin Books

An award-winning author explores how the world works in our age of "continuous now"

Back in the 1970s, futurism was all the rage. But looking forward is becoming a thing of the past. According to Douglas Rushkoff, “presentism” is the new ethos of a society that's always on, in real time, updating live. Guided by neither history nor long term goals, we navigate a sea of media that blend the past and future into a mash-up of instantaneous experience.

PRESENT SHOCK is a meditation on the anxious state of our time, as caused by the technologies that we’re increasingly dependant upon. It analyzes the cognitive dissonance created by the futile attempt to reconcile our digital selves with our physical brains and bodies, as well as our inability to keep up with Twitter, email, and how life-as-livestream has fragmented our worlds and created a ripple effect across our world.  Award-winning media theorist Doug adroitly pulls together seemingly disparate threads and weaves them into one cultural narrative, from the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street to zombie apocalypse fiction to the collapse of markets and beyond.

Rushkoff shows how this trend is both disorienting and exhilarating. Without linear narrative we get both the humiliations of reality TV and the associative brilliance of The Simpsons. With no time for long term investing, we invent dangerously compressed derivatives yet also revive sustainable local businesses. In politics, presentism drives both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement.

In many ways, this was the goal of digital technology—outsourcing our memory was supposed to free us up to focus on the present. But we are in danger of squandering this cognitive surplus on trivia. Rushkoff shows how we can instead ground ourselves in the reality of the present tense.

Douglas Rushkoff is a world-renowned media theorist who has been an authority on the intersection of technology and culture since before the word “google” was anything more than baby talk. His twelve books, including Program or Be Programmed, Life, Inc., and Cyberia have won prestigious awards and have been translated into thirty languages. He is a commentator on CNN and a contributor to Time, Discover, and NPR. He also made the PBS documentaries Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders, and Digital Nation. For more info, please visit