Team 5 Keywords

Narrative Collapse
The abandoned use of traditional linear narratives – whether religious, political, or ideological in nature – to provide meaning for our present circumstances. In his book, Rushkoff gives examples of where narrative collapse has occurred in news reporting, politics, and pop culture. In each circumstance, narrative collapse is seen when the present is no longer viewed as a stepping stone in a progression towards a future goal, but rather as an isolated event with no place in an overarching narrative.

In news reporting, Rushkoff says narrative collapse is seen in the 24/7 cycle of in-the-moment story reporting. Stories are no longer framed within an overarching narrative, but instead are reported to viewers and readers before any fallout or effects of the given story are known. This leads to an endless cycle of anxiety and speculation about the meaning of current events with little direction or hope for resolve.

In politics, narrative collapse has caused national leaders to become reactionary rather than authoritarian. Rather than framing current events in an overarching narrative, political leaders are forced to react to them just as you and I are. Technology, Rushkoff says, has reversed the flow of information from top-down to bottom-up. As a result, national leaders no longer have the ability to frame new developments to the public using their own narrative. They, like the rest of us, now react to developments quickly and sans-narrative.

In pop-culture, narrative collapse is seen in the endless number of TV shows and movies (Family Guy, Seinfeld, Pulp Fiction, reality TV) that abandon the use of a traditional linear narrative. The shows or movies are focused in the present and lack an overarching traditional conflict-resolution progression. Rushkoff says this pop culture phenomena is a reflection of our culture as a whole, which is more concerned with orienting ourselves to the ever-changing present instead of being concerned about the future.

Rushkoff refers to digiphrenia as a form of present shock that occurs when we try to too closely approximate ourselves as digital creatures. The very word itself is evocative of another "-phrenia:" schizophrenia, which itself is characterized by poor thinking, hallucinations, and poor emotional responses. Rushkoff, it seems, would like us to think of digiphrenia as a form of digital schizophrenia where our poor thinking, hallucination, and poor emotional responses all stem from the disconnect between our digital selves and our flesh and blood selves. Our digital selves can now be anywhere and everywhere at once. According to Rushkoff, there are no copies anymore; everything exists as the original now and making a copy no longer leads to degradation. Obviously this can get our physical selves into a bit of trouble when our digital selves, in Rushkoff’s case especially, schedule themselves for two different places at once.

The very idea of being a digital being implies a sort of multitasking. Rushkoff gives the example of hundreds of computerized waiters all performing a single discrete task and then returning to the kitchen. Meanwhile, our meaty, real-world persons must make a sweeping trip to grab the plates and take the orders in one go. There is a tension in this difference between our digital and physical selves; obviously, they are one and the same, but there is a tendency to think of them as separate entities. I’m sure we’ve all created an online persona for ourselves at one point in time, subconsciously or not, and I’d be willing to bet that that character has altered each of us in a small way.

Digiphrenia is then the disconnect between our digital and physical lives.

Present Shock
Present shock is characterized by the need to be able to respond to stimuli outside of our immediate presence. We feel we must always be able to in tune with peripheral situations. The “shock” part of it comes in because we, according to Rushkoff, are never able to fully deal with what is directly in front of us.

Present shock also includes the need to document everything around us. We are constantly trying to remember and commemorate the “present” we live in, but the Rushkoff argues that the present is never really lived in because it cannot be fully experienced with so many distractions.

Rushkoff says present shock permeates every aspect of our lives—from our social lives to how we conduct business. It is reactionary because we are constantly living in the now, rather than looking toward the future like we have in our past.

Present shock is different from what we’ve experienced in the past because the 20th century was devoted to thoughts towards the future—what was to come technologically and how we were going to deal with those changes. Because we have so suddenly arrived in the future, we are in “shock” by the swiftness with which the “present” has arrived.