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Douglas Rushkoff-- Present Shock and Presentism: Interview Transcript

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Douglas Rushkoff: Right. And the experience we had before that, which was difficult but different, was: remember what it would be like to be on the phone with one person when you're kind of expecting a call from someone else? Or where your parents are expecting a call from someone else, like, "Get off the phone because your Grandma is going to call, and she's sick." So you'd have to say, "Oh! I can't talk. I really have to go because ..." It was different, right? That was very Industrial Age. You can only really do one thing at a time, and you've got hurry up with the thing so you can be available for the next thing - as opposed to the more digital sensibility, "Well we can do both. I'm going to be on the phone, but while I'm on the phone with you, I'm actually available to the fact that Grandma might call, and then we're going to have to break this thing" - because we're so willing to be simultaneous.

Rob Kall: And what this chapter describes is how there are so many different ways, now, that we are disrupted, and distracted, and interrupted, and it really changes just the way that we go through the day, and produces a shallower way to commit to the present, really.

Douglas Rushkoff: Right. And that's hard - which is why, now (oddly enough) it takes discipline to commit to the present. It takes discipline to say, "Look: I'm really not going to answer my phone at all." We use work as an excuse: "Oh, you're in a meeting, so you've really got to do this thing." Certain things you can use as excuses, but the kinds of things we should be able to use as excuses, like "I'm playing Lego with my daughter." You know? That's sacred space, baby! I'm not going to answer my thing, I'm not going to worry, I'm not going to try to check my Twitter Feed out of the corner of my eye while I'm doing that, because it's going to hurt both. You know? It's going to reduce the quality of both of those things.

But we feel compelled to check; we feel compelled to be in more than one place at the same time, to keep more than one persona active in the now. That almost always either gets us in logistical trouble - where, like me, we schedule ourselves to be in more than one place at a time. I let my Google calendar run my day, and I've ended up where, because Skype wouldn't connect me to that phone number for ten minutes, now we're ten minutes behind, I don't know if this next person is going to be standing waiting for me somewhere, and then I'd dump the one after that, so it's like, "What have I done?" If I didn't have a Google Calendar to go down to this granularity - you don't schedule your day with no minutes in between! You just don't live quite that fast.

Rob Kall: It seems to me that what this leads to is a change in our values.

Douglas Rushkoff: Yes, definitely. We tend to undervalue our flesh and blood reality, you know? We tend to devalue the human experience, we tend to devalue night and day; we tend to devalue the seasons. And we treat time as somehow generic, because it's all interchangeable. We should have learned that that doesn't work in the industrial age, when we understood jet lag, or we understood that cancer rates of shift workers are higher than those of people who just get to work during the day. Because we do what we have clocks in us; we have an organic, a natural human relationship to the passage of time that just is not recognized in a digital landscape.

Rob Kall: This is the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township, reaching metro Philly and South Jersey, sponsored by Opednews.com. My guest tonight is Douglas Rushkoff. He is one of the Digerati. Has has written ten books about how our technology is changing us. His current and newest one that just come out is called Present Shock, and we've been discussing how it's is a description of how we've been changed. You say, Douglas, in your chapter on Digiphrenia, "If we could only catch up with the wave of information we feel, we would at least be in the Now. This is a false goal. For not only have our devices outpaced us, they don't even reflect a here and now that may constitute any legitimate sort of present tense."

Douglas Rushkoff: Right. (laughs) You said it, and all I can really do is re-iterate. We are living (many of us anyway) in a state of constant distraction, and most importantly, it robs us of our social reality. You walk into a room where there's ten people logged in on their devices, and there's no group cohesion, there's not sense of a genuine social network between those people. The social networks that they do have are these highly mediated corporate social networks that they join and that limit their range of interaction to that which is favorable to the brand managers who are paying for that place to begin with.

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