Book Review: Present Shock

I found it interesting that in the last few pages of Present Shock, writer and thinker Douglas Rushkoff notes that the format of his book — a published tome, a few hundred pages long — is an example of the very ideas that he is writing about in the book — which is that technology and the digital revolution has made the “in the moment” moment the key idea of just about everything that we now do. He wonders out loud what his book would look like if he had to post it, bit by bit, on a blog or some other online writing space, and how it would reshape the ideas.

I had to laugh, not just because it was a nice way to end the book but also because I had been thinking the same thing in the middle of Present Shock when I started to lose interest and began to feel as if Rushkoff was losing his focus as a writer. I found myself speed-reading sections, skipping over over parts that did not interest me, and wondering (in jest) where the hyperlinks were or the search engine in this book.  I almost gave up on the book any number of times and began to look at reading it as a chore more than a pleasure (I hate that). All that, only to find that Rushkoff at the end of the book is wondering the same thing, as writer. Will his audience stay with him?

Yes, I did get to the end, but I didn’t find myself as inspired with the text as I have been with some of Rushkoff’s other books. I still think Program or Be Programmed has some of the most intelligent ideas I have read about how to situate ourselves in the digital world, giving ourselves agency when it comes to using our technology. Here, in Present Shock, I felt as if Rushkoff was all over the place as a writer, and I sort of wished he could have whittled down the book and finely tuned his focus on the concept of “time” and the “now” that we seem to always live in. He paints a large canvas of many ideas. Yet, I didn’t feel like he successfully connected them all together in a meaningful way that allowed me to make better sense of my world. Knowing him as writer from the past, this was disappointing to me.

Or maybe that is just me, the reader, wanting to take big ideas in with one huge gulp, validating all that Rushkoff is writing about.


Peace (in the present),



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