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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy Audio CD – Audiobook, May 7, 2019
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About the Author
Rebecca Gibel, an award-winning stage, television, and voice actress, has worked across the country at theaters such as Trinity Rep, Cleveland Play House, and the Arden Theatre Company. Rebecca has narrated over fifty audiobooks and is facile in a wide variety of genres.
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If you’re looking for a digital detox guide, go elsewhere (though she does spend time dismantling the very concept). If a capitalist critique (by a woman in academia, no less) gets your knickers in a twist, avoid. If you want some genuine inspiration as to how to exist, resist, and survive in the world as it is today, you won’t be disappointed.
How to Do Nothing is an amazing exploration of our current attention-competing, dizzying world of information overload—and it would be a fabulous book if it just stopped there. But Odell actually offers insights into how to fight this modern cacophony of too-muchedness, leaving us with an improbably optimistic and refreshing view on a decidedly 21st-century problem.
I'm anxiously awaiting my nieces' and nephews' transitions into adulthood, so I an share this work with them. Because it's just that necessary.
For those truly interesting in learning how to do nothing, learn to pray, find a meditation teacher, or take a walk in the woods. Either will leave you recharged, open to new ideas, and feeling timeless and free. Sadly, Ms. Odell's book will leave you more tightly bound to the tyranny of our divisive age. The real practice of doing nothing is that of forgetting. It gives us the space to remember who we were before we knew.
Top international reviews
It's not about how to shut yourself off from society and live as a hermit. It's not a bunch of shallow hand-wringing about social media and "kids these days." It's not even a detox or retreat guide. How To Do Nothing is a careful, well-researched look at how we choose to engage with our world and with each other, so that we can find ways to restore nuance, context and a sense of belonging. To do this, Odell investigates everything from history and politics to literature, art, sociology, even bird watching.
Though this book is written in a slightly academic style and the reader may benefit from some knowledge of critical methods or modern philosophy, it's so honest that I believe it would resonate strongly with anyone. I have personally taken a lot from this book and have been thinking about it for weeks since I read it.
I think one can relate more to the book (and some of the examples) if one is familiar with California.
The work was a little contradictory at times about our relationship with our ‘app-driven devices’. And, I found a mention of the author ‘killing time’ simply bizarre given the underlying emphasis on what might be seen as ‘mindfulness’.
Perhaps this was just a figure of speech? That said, I did find the author’s prose style rather clumsy at times. Is this because she writes in American English and I’m a British English writer? Or it might be generational?
I’ve got a background in computing going back to the late 1960s, and was involved with AI work in the mid 1980s. Even then, some of the problematic aspects of technology were evident - if only in embryo.
Jenny Odell offers lots of suggestions for resisting but I see little evidence that her impassioned pleas will have much impact on most of those trapped in the ‘Attention Economy’. If one does want to resist (perhaps even ‘drop out’ to some degree) opportunities to do so seem very dependant on how much personal autonomy one enjoys. This is, to be fair, something she recognises.
The one, overwhelming depressing aspect of the book is the assertion that there’s ‘hundreds of designers and engineers predict(ing) and plan(planing) for our every move on these platforms’. In other words, getting us to ‘click’ for reasons that are essentially about generating income for these corporations.
In a world facing a myriad of problems from climate change to a global refugee crisis, it’s more than a pity that these talented people can’t find something more constructive to do with their time and energy.