Saturday, December 28, 2013

Present Shock - My Personal Book of the Year

I confess I don't buy all that many books any more. I've become more comfortable with screens and even more comfortable to listening to podcasts and audio books. I use a lot of bookmarks so I can find interesting quotes again.

My favourite book of 2013 for inspiration was Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff. It woke me up to the fact that some aspects of digital storytelling are seriously broken and how in Western Europe we have become obsessed with "now". I've seen it so often in European media, especially the rolling news channels. Nothing is ever finished. Few stories are explored in depth. Some stories are so overblown as to be ridiculous (networks simply dumping everything they already had on the shelf). And I realize now that what I thought were cool new formats are really examples of Narrative Collapse. Rushkoff went on a discussion tour shortly after releasing the book in the spring of 2013. Although there are overlaps in the beginning of each interview, I found the examples given later in the conversations above to be very interesting indeed, actually they should have been in the book. I'm already using the points Douglas raises in rethinking how I help build stronger company narratives and documentary scripts. The following is taken from Rushkoff's interview with The Verge. Bit disappointed in the narrator on audible. He reads with a rather monotonous repetitive style.

The term Present Shock is a direct reference to Alvin Toffler’s Future Shockpublished in 1970. Rushkoff and many others believe the futurism of the 20th century, most spectacularly displayed in the space race, has given way to a myopic obsession and focus on the present in the 21st century. He writes, "Prophecy no longer feels like a description of the future, but, rather, a guide to the present." The danger of futurism was an overwhelming consideration of what could be, the danger of presentism is an overwhelming consideration of what is.
His first chapter focuses on what he calls "Narrative Collapse," a result of our short attention spans and need for instant gratification. It’s better in concept than the evidence he gives for it. He lumps most of modern entertainment (including, Seinfeld and Beavis and Butt-head) into something he calls "Now-ist Pop Culture," that’s more concerned with making sense of the present, with self references and cyclical plots, than conveying the traditional Western story arcs we’ve known since Homer. We go for "heightened states" and problem solving in lieu of narrative.

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