Speaking at PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, Douglas Rushkoff introduced the concept of ‘present shock,’ from his recent book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. The concept examines how we are using digital devices to manage our lives, and how something designed to give us more time can, in fact, give us less. Central to this is the dichotomy between Chronos, which is time of the clock, and Kairos, which is timing in a more abstract sense. When these two distinct concepts are confused, and when our busy and digitally connected lives pull us too far out of Kairos and into Chronos, we are left stuck in a state of ‘present shock.’
Rushkoff focuses on how the digital renaissance of the past few decades has been recast as a way to extract more and more time out of individuals, rather than an opportunity to improve efficiency and slack in peoples lives. Instead of extracting us from the ‘time is money’ mentality of the industrial revolution, digital connectivity has found ways to extend this obsolete agenda into the tech age. So rather than giving us more time, time is in fact being subtracted.
Rushkoff goes on to propose that time does not create media, but rather media creates time. Looking through history, the invention of writing gave way to historical documentation and the idea of the contract, and the invention of the clock gave way to breaking down our days in to segmented sections, allowing people to sell pieces of their time. In this way, the current digital age has created a world of updates and interruptions, which leaves us in the disconnected neurological state of ‘present shock.’
Image Credit - Catalina Kulczar