I get regular emails from publishers who think they’ve got a hot new book for me. Collectively, they’re a good case study in how difficult targeting your actual customer base really is. Today’s solicitation produced a real groaner.
Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
By Douglas Rushkoff
Rushkoff presents a rich, nuanced exploration of how technological shifts like the rise of email and social media enable our lives to play out in real time—the “eternal present”—but never in the authentic “now.” The resulting dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock. Weaving together seemingly disparate events and trends, Rushkoff shows how our changed relationship with time affects our biology, behavior, politics, and culture in this wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in the modern era.
“The eternal present but not the authentic now.” Seriously? Do you think there’s any chance at all that this guy has actually devised a way to measure the authenticity of someone’s experience of the now?
“The dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies.” Oh, one thing’s digital, the other’s analog; that must mean something profound!
When I hear people longing for more “public intellectuals” (I’m looking at you, Nick Kristoff), this kind of bullshit is what comes to mind. Because people are going to flock to snake oil salesmen who spin un-tested and untestable theories hooked to memetic catchphrases (I’m looking at you, Newt Gingrich), and will be bored to tears by any attempt to give them a real empirically-based argument. In fact giving people empirical information that contradicts their beliefs can actually strengthen false beliefs.
Public intellectuals are people like Malcolm Gladwell (who writes so brilliantly–I am envious–that I almost believe what he’s saying), David Brooks (whose contribution to our culture is the fluffing up of common-place thoughts so as to present them as meaningful insights), or Noam Chomsky (whom people listen to because he tells them what they want to hear, and they justify listening by reference to his academic credentials, which have jack all to do with the areas in which he pontificates).
And me, perhaps (small as my public is). Take that for a warning.