A galvanizing critique of the forces vying for our attention—and our personal information—that redefines what we think of as productivity, reconnects us with the environment, and reveals all that we've been too distracted to see about ourselves and our world
Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity . . . doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.
So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it). Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. Once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind's role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress.
Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we hear so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book is a four-course meal in the age of Soylent.
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"Jenny Odell's soulful manifesto on the threat the digital world poses is spot-on. She shows how the modern digital economy commodifies and monetizes — buys and sells — our very attention span (to say nothing about our privacy). Facebook, Twitter et.al. make money on every click of the internet and their “gift” in return, in addition to making us addicts, is choosing and redirecting that attention to issues and products geared to our online profiles, further enriching the technocrats. Sure, newspapers & ads even 100 years ago tried to manipulate our opinions and purchases, but the digital world is moment-to-moment invasive and around us in several mediums 24/7. There are some interesting concepts such as “context collapse” which comes from the narrow focus and quick-hit impact of online information & social media and wreaks havoc on a deliberate, slower digestion of news/information with its relevant backstories. All very enlightening, but the key value is in her exquisite understanding of how One-Pointed Attention and Slowing Down are necessary for real relationships, compassion, etc., in a sense the inner workings of self-will. Her focus on the healing power of the natural world is impressive. The only weakness of the audio presentation is the narrator, whose voice doesn't match the clarity & sincerity of the writing. "
Tom C. (4 out of 5 stars)