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Douglas Rushkoff-- Present Shock and Presentism: Interview Transcript

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Douglas Rushkoff Yeah. The first one, I use the one that most of us see most. I call it "Narrative Collapse"; and that's really just the idea that, if you're living in a world without time, then there's no time for stories. Right? There's no beginning, middle, and end; there's just these ongoing stories, which is both good and bad.

The second phenomenon I look at is called "Digiphrenia." It's "The impact of digital technology on our sense of continuity"; and it's really just that digital technology invites us to be in more than one place at the same time. There's your "Facebook you," and your "Google you," and your "Twitter you," and they're all operating simultaneously; and things are happening in those places right now as we speak, or as our audience listens. But who knows? You can come back and there could be a storm over there.

Another one is called "Overwinding," which is "Trying to compress too much time into each little moment." It's what happens when a stock trader is trying to trade on a derivative of derivative of a derivative, which isn't really an investment anymore. They aren't investing in the future, they're trying to invest in the trade and shove as may algorithms as they can on the head of a temporal pin.

There's another one called "Fractalnoia," which is "The paranoia that results from trying to make sense of things in the present when you have no story, when you have no cause and effect, when all you have is this instantaneous feedback loop, but you're still trying to look at it and say, 'How does this make sense?'" You tend to do it by drawing connections between things. And rather than drawing patterns and inferences, you just draw lines; and we try to make sense, and it ends up in paranoia or conspiracy theory.

And finally, I look at one I call "Apocalypto," which is, "In a world that's in the present, we ache for conclusion. We'd rather things to end bad than not conclude at all." So we live in this culture where we almost wish for a zombie apocalypse, because it would be simpler than living in this steady-state panic that we're in right now.

Rob Kall: OK. So let's dive in a little bit to each of these and discuss them. Your first one is about narrative collapse; and you say in here, that "People have stopped looking to the future and are looking at the present." Explain that, and how that leads to narrative collapse.

Douglas Rushkoff Well, in the 20th Century (for example), we organized movements by having goals. You know, Martin Luther King would have a dream, and then we would follow the charismatic leader: you know, march down Broadway arm in arm. Declare our goal, and then strive towards it. We keep pour eye on the prize, and the ends justify the means. Race to whatever it is. Stick a man on the moon, and stick the flag in, and declare that we've won. The war against Communism and the Russians: "We're going to fight this weird.." - well, it was a Cold War, which is pretty Presentist, actually. But it still had the goal of eradicating the world of Communism, and we'd know when we won.

The world doesn't really work that way anymore. Even our entertainment doesn't work that way. Kids started to play -- when I was a kid we were playing fantasy role-playing games, which worked very differently than these "winner-take-all, win-or-lose" battles. You're not playing a fantasy role-playing game in order to win, you're playing it in order to keep the game going.

So I feel that, in a lot of areas - both culturally, as we move from movies with beginnings, middles, and ends, to things more like The Simpsons, that just go on, and the audience reward has more to do with making connections than it does to getting to the end,

- or [with] movements like Occupy, which were much less about stated goals or demands (that's part of what was so confounding about them!), and much more so about process: "How are we going to reach consensus?" This is more a way of modeling a society than it is reaching a very particular win,

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