Artist and author Jenny Odell makes a case for “doing nothing,” in a world of addictive tech in her book “How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy”
“I really believe in not, you know, not disengaging from the news altogether, and not disengaging from other people altogether, but also recognizing, unfortunately, the medium through which we connect to those things is designed to be addictive and ultimately feels very harmful,” she explained.
Odell’s book evolved from a talk she gave at tech and art conference Eyeo in 2017. While the title might imply otherwise, she doesn’t suggest giving up tech entirely. Instead, she encourages readers to rechannel their attention so they can engage more meaningfully with their communities.
“I think actually doing nothing, or the figure of kind of emptiness, is really difficult for people right now, because we’re constantly bombarded, not only with information, but kind of prompts to express ourselves, to respond to things, she said. “And I think in the middle of all that, learning how to actually redirect and proliferate one’s attention is a really worthwhile thing to do.”
To Odell, any of these devices and apps compete in an “attention economy,” each one vying to take up more time and emotional investment.
“More literally, I think it’s just what the phrase normally means, which is the design of technology to keep you as engaged as possible with it as long as possible,” she said. “I also kind of fold into that, the culture of personal branding, and this kind of feeling or assumption that you need to be constantly checking back in with something, or that you need to be engaged all the time.”
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