Category: Distracted People

From Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement pg 83: This pattern is epitomized by the career of the novel, which in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often included frontispieces, plates, and so on. But all of these elements gradually faded away, over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, until the very word illustration […]

I thought this was an interesting extract from Imperial Messenger concerning Thomas Friedman’s advocacy of a digital imperative (‘get-wired-or-die’) which he himself is insulated from. As Belén Fernández writes on loc 668: Quoted in Foreign Policy as saying “I talk the talk of technology, but I don’t walk the walk,” Friedman elsewhere admits to not knowing how […]

I thought this action by Eventbrite was really interesting. Platform firms reliant on face-to-face interaction face a difficult future and their relationship with their user base is one of the key resources they have access to: On Thursday, March 19, we sent a letter to the White House and Congressional leadership urging them to protect the live events […]

This is an important point by Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson which echoes an argument Will Davies made a couple of years ago. The claim of being suppressed, being denied a platform, plays an increasingly crucial role in how reactionary celebrities build their platform. It draws attention for their work, provides them with their narrative and […]

This illuminating Vanity Fair article captures an important transition in digital politics, as the data science driven Clinton campaign was eclipsed by the social media savvy Trump campaign: While Democrats spent the last decade running A/B tests and refining their voter models, Republicans stumbled into learning how to weaponize content on social media by going […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants pg 343 captures something important about the sociology of Donald Trump’s presidency. I think he’s correct about the use of constant strife, echoing the argument by Will Davies about the blurring boundary between war and peace, to dominate the media agenda in a way which ensures the […]

This passage from pg 333 of Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants connects to my analysis of cultural binging. It brings to life the specific cultural characteristics which encourage binge watching, even if they don’t create it: While House of Cards might have made binging mainstream, in the decade before, writers of shows were inventing what Vince Gilligan (of […]

This suggestion from Tim Wu on pg 352 of The Attention Merchants asks a question which has been on my mind a lot in the last year. If we accept the idea that distraction increases in a digital environment, in the sense of a difficulty in sustaining focus driven by the multiplication of disruptions, what does this […]

This passage from Tim Wu’s The Master Switch pg 225 offers a useful account for making sense of the rise of a figure like Lawrence Fox. When the ‘arms race of exposure’ is more intense than ever because social media means a great many of us have entered into it, new strategies become necessary to […]

From Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 202: Among the sources of such comfort would be AOL’s infamous chat rooms. Chat rooms had actually been invented by CompuServe in the 1980s (under that ’70s handle “CB simulator”), but AOL allowed the creation of “private rooms,” which anyone could open, hosting up to twenty-three total strangers. By […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 192-193 makes clear how the immersive character of video games has been treated as addictive from the outset. It raises the question of where the former characteristic ends and the latter begins: In both markets Space Invaders was a sudden and unexpected success—nothing quite like it had […]

I saw an exhibition at the Scott Polar Museum yesterday which made a passing referencing to ‘wikibombing’ as a practice. In this case there was a concerted project to produce wikipedia entries for female explorers and scientists who were absent from the site. I’m recording it here because it’s a useful phrase I hadn’t heard […]

I’ve written before about the ontological assumptions inherent in the framing of the attention economy. To consider the issue in economic terms tends to imply the fungibility, commensurability and valorisation of attention. There’s much of value here but it easily overlap is the quality of attention, described usefully by Tim Wu on pg 125 of […]

From Richard Seymour’s wonderful Patreon blog: It was in this context that what Evans calls “communal listening”, in which the Führer’s speeches were broadcast to workplaces and schools each week, worked. They were, yes, propaganda. But they were also a form of entertainment, organising a grotesquely celebrified relationship between leader and followers. They were glamorous, […]