It can be hard to take distraction seriously as a political factor because it is rooted in personal life. It tends to be understood as an individual ailment, perhaps significant in someone’s experience of their own life and exercising a diffuse constraint over their effectiveness but nonetheless beyond the bounds of the political. However individuals changes have aggregate consequences for political life. As James Williams puts it in Stand Out of Our Light pg 10:
But I also knew this wasn’t just about me – my deep distractions, my frustrated goals. Because when most people in society use your product, you aren’t just designing users; you’re designing society. But if all of society were to become as distracted in this new, deep way as I was starting to feel, what would that mean? What would be the implications for our shared interests, our common purposes, our collective identities, our politics?
Addressing these questions pushes at the boundaries of a disciplinary separation between psychology and sociology. If we reduce to distraction to a costruct of experimental psychology, we lose track of why our goals and tasks matter to us and the significance of our declining capacity to attend to them. If we approach distraction in a purely sociological way, we over-socialise it and obscure the subtle variability of its development in individuals. Furthermore, it necessitates resisting the evisceration of the human, reclaiming the language of human purposes in the face of attempts to reduce our meaningful action to digital metrics.