Tag: distraction

The popular character of this diagnosis, summarised by Tim Wu on pg 6 of his Attention Merchants, poses the question of how we should treat it as common sense, in the Durkheimian tradition of skepticism about received wisdom. How widespread is this? To what extent does it misrepresent the nature of the problem? To what […]

The Attention Economy and the Net is a remarkably prescient piece, widely seen to have coined the eponymous term and containing insights which are still relevant two decades later. The framing of the economy unsurprisingly shapes the approach he adopts and it creates a focus on exchange which I find problematic in some respects. This isn’t […]

From The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour loc 3166: No one consciously sets out to devote themselves to the machine, to become its addict. Its veto power over all other possible attentions takes place, cumulatively, through every apparently free choice made as a user. We drop into the dead zone, the ‘ticker trance’ of feed […]

From Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine loc 1148: The vacancies of attention that we must fill appear during public transport journeys, on lunch and toilet breaks, during impasses in dinner conversation, or in those frequent interludes in working life where there is nothing to do but the employee is obliged to look busy. If we […]

There’s an interesting aside in Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain on pg 98 which has left me thinking about why I’m so interested in distraction: Here he tied his essay into a venerable tradition in psychiatry going back at least to the early twentieth century, namely, that madness and mental illness pointed to a failure to […]

This is the provocative phrase which James Williams uses to describe the attention economy on pg 87 of Stand Out of Our Light: Uncritical deployment of the human-as-computer metaphor is today the well of a vast swamp of irrelevant prognostications about the human future. If people were computers, however, the appropriate description of the digital […]

I’ve never completely understood my attraction to kitsch. As much as part of me would like to suggest otherwise, it’s not a knowing embrace of excessive sentimentality and contrived garishness, as much as these things genuinely appealing to me in a way that can prompt knowingness when I reflect upon it. For instance, I saw these […]

From The Mediated Construction of Reality, by Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp, loc 2896-2912: While there are only so many bodies of a certain size that can fit into a finite space –there are certain natural limits to spatial packing, beyond which the attempt to pack just has to stop (otherwise, bodies get crushed) –the […]

Soon after becoming Finance Minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis found himself surrounded by civil servants whose loyalties he could not assume and staff parachuted in by a political party with which he had little prior affiliation. In his political memoir, Adults In The Room, he recounts his impulse to find “a minder whose loyalties would not be […]

What’s the moral status of ‘thoughtlessness’? It can be invoked as a defence, used to claim that an action was less morally problematic because it expressed a lack of consideration rather than a deliberate intention. But as the wise Jim Gordon once pointed out, such actions can actually be worse in a way, reflecting a wilful […]

This is a really nice account in Damon Young’s Distraction of what Margaret Archer calls the necessity of selection. From pg 2: Psychological blockages are part of a much larger set of limitations: those of mortal life itself. There are only so many professions, sexual partners, houses, entertainments and amusements available; and we only have so […]

A really interesting conference I wish I could make it to: Work Life Balance + Digital Conference We’ve got a few £20/£12 places left for our “BEYOND BALANCE: How digital technologies are affecting our work, our homes, and everything in between” conference in London on Mon 27 June that we wanted to highlight to sociologists […]

I just came across this brief reference in Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success which makes me think it’s important to read Sontag to develop my case about digital distraction. From pg 63: Susan Sontag would observe in On Photography that inexpensive photos, produced by the hundreds, created a record that allowed an […]

An extract from Social Media for Academics In recent years we’ve seen the notion of ‘internet addiction’ enter the popular consciousness. As a self-description it’s sometimes invoked facetiously, some­times desperately and occasionally in a way which combines the two. It would be silly for me to try and take a stance on such a complex […]

I came across this wonderful passage by William James, quoted by Robert Frodeman in Sustainable Knowledge and reproduced on Brainpickings here: Every one is familiar with the phenomenon of feeling more or less alive on different days. Every one knows on any given day that there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of […]

I love this essay (HT Su Oman) – I recently presented a paper The Challenge of Flourishing Amidst Variety and it was a very different approach to precisely the same questions. Read it in full here. LIVING with a sense of overwhelming choice means exerting an insane amount of emotional energy in making the most banal decisions. What should […]