PLAYING THE FUTURE by Douglas Rushkoff


How Kid's Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos
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 Kaffee-klatsch musings masquerade as visionary insight in this hopelessly square Baedeker to what we can learn from today's youth, or ``screenager,'' culture. That loud humming you hear is all the '90s buzzwords, from chaos to Gak (a goo product that kids play with) to holism, that Rushkoff totemistically lards throughout the text. Rushkoff, who has made his reputation as a cyber-based interpreter of the media (Media Virus, 1994, etc.), strives to be a futurist, painting a broad, appealing picture of things to come from practices as various as body-piercing and fantasy role-playing in computer games--but the effect he achieves is really dejÖ vu. Change a few names and dates and we're right back in the '60s, with all the sincere, straight-jawed exegeses of ``what we can learn from the younger generation.'' Throw in a few megabytes and the answers aren't that different either. According to Rushkoff, the kids (and in the author's chronology ``kid'' seems to be anyone under 34) can teach us to appreciate multiple viewpoints; they can help us surf chaos by finding meaning in the moment and in community; they can help us get back in touch with nature. Rushkoff partially acknowledges his debt to Marshall McLuhan and Carl Jung, but much of his ``new'' thinking, especially on chaos, is as old as Bergson and Proust. Rushkoff does make a strong case for the relative harmlessness of electronic violence, comparing video games to dreams. He may proclaim metaphor dead, but this is just one example of his rather lively dependence on it: From Power Rangers to video games, he analyzes artifacts of screenager culture, trying to tease out their larger metaphorical significance. Of course, by deriving broad, fixed meaning from fragments of an atomized culture, he's not only contradicting himself, but revealing that he's an old fogy who can't hang ten on chaos. ($50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: June 19th, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-017310-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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