Rushkoff on Narrative Collapse: we are the storytellers now

Posted by on December 23rd, 2012 in friends of the future, identity

Interesting comments here in this article on Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, Present Shock, over on Forbes:

Indeed, one of Toffler’s tenets is that “change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways.” Rushkoff takes this notion a step further an describes a present in which “there is no temporal backdrop against which to measure our progress, no narrative through which to make sense of our actions, no future toward which we may strive, and seemingly no time to figure any of this out.

Rushkoff toes the line between apocalypse and ascension. He diagnoses the cultural problems engendered by our disorientation from traditional concepts of time and attempts to propose concrete steps we can take to recover some sense of control and purpose.

Narrative Collapse: Rushkoff identifies both the sensationalism of reality TV and the meta-stories of The Simpsons and Family Guy as examples of how we no longer have the time or patience for linear stories. From entertainment to financial investment, the payoff has to be virtually instantaneous in order to justify our attention. Politically, he shows how these impulses play out both in the Tea Party and the Occupy movement. A news cycle divested of linear time, pushes politicians into present tense reactions with unsustainable results. Rushkoff’s sympathies are clearly more with Occupy who confounded conservatives and the mainstream press by having a large impact without an easily identifiable goal. In remix culture and contemporary activism, he sees the potential for us to seize the narrative frame and use them in new ways to invent innovative story forms and flexible agendas.

To the problem of narrative collapse, Rushkoff suggests that young people have reacted to the loss of storytellers by realizing they have to become the storyteller. The gamer can write his own next level. We can be fragmented by allowing ourselves to operate on the (non-temporal) time scale of computers or we can program our computers to keep us in sync with our own goals and our own lives.

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