Jenny Odell — How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Un guide d’analyse de l’art contemporain. Un petit précis du dressage des corbeaux. Un journal de lectures. Et, finalement, un livre d’écologie sociale, à moins qu’il ne s’agisse de socialisme écologique. Un ouvrage si tortueux qu’il demande une grande attention. Quel plaisir !

Notes

Ne rien faire pour défier le système capitaliste :

The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn’t to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive. My argument is obviously anticapitalist, especially concerning technologies that encourage a capitalist perception of time, place, self, and community. It is also environmental and historical: I propose that rerouting and deepening one’s attention to place will likely lead to awareness of one’s participation in history and in a more-than-human community. From either a social or ecological perspective, the ultimate goal of “doing nothing” is to wrest our focus from the attention economy and replant it in the public, physical realm.

Changer de forme et sortir du cadre :

To resist in place is to make oneself into a shape that cannot so easily be appropriated by a capitalist value system. To do this means refusing the frame of reference: in this case, a frame of reference in which value is determined by productivity, the strength of one’s career, and individual entrepreneurship.

Reconnaitre et renier l’économie de l’attention :

The first half of “doing nothing” is about disengaging from the attention economy; the other half is about reengaging with something else. That “something else” is nothing less than time and space, a possibility only once we meet each other there on the level of attention. Ultimately, against the placelessness of an optimized life spent online, I want to argue for a new “placefulness” that yields sensitivity and responsibility to the historical (what happened here) and the ecological (who and what lives, or lived, here).

La productivité comme fuite en avant :

In the context of health and ecology, things that grow unchecked are often considered parasitic or cancerous. Yet we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative. Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.

Le problème des « retraites numériques » :

All too often, things like digital detox retreats are marketed as a kind of “life hack” for increasing productivity upon our return to work. And the impulse to say goodbye to it all, permanently, doesn’t just neglect our responsibility to the world that we live in; it is largely unfeasible, and for good reason.

Les réseaux sociaux comme machine à déprime :

Here’s what I want to escape. To me, one of the most troubling ways social media has been used in recent years is to foment waves of hysteria and fear, both by news media and by users themselves. Whipped into a permanent state of frenzy, people create and subject themselves to news cycles, complaining of anxiety at the same time that they check back ever more diligently. The logic of advertising and clicks dictates the media experience, which is exploitative by design. Media companies trying to keep up with each other create a kind of “arms race” of urgency that abuses our attention and leaves us no time to think. The result is something like the sleep-deprivation tactics the military uses on detainees, but on a larger scale. The years 2017 and 2018 were when I heard so many people say, “It’s just something new every day.”

Dénoncer sans déserter :

But beyond showing that refusal is possible — highlighting the “cracks” in the crushingly habitual — Diogenes also has much to teach us about how to refuse. It’s important to note that, faced with the unrelenting hypocrisy of society, Diogenes did not flee to the mountains (like some philosophers) or kill himself (like still other philosophers). In other words, he neither assimilated to nor fully exited society; instead he lived in the midst of it, in a permanent state of refusal.

L’individualisme du flux comme moyen d’empêcher les formes d’organisation collective tangible :

In the context of attention, I’d further venture that this fear renders young people less able to concentrate individually or collectively. An atomized and competitive atmosphere obstructs individual attention because everything else disappears in a fearful and myopic battle for stability. It obstructs collective attention because students are either locked in isolated struggles with their own limits, or worse, actively pitted against each other. In Kids These Days, Harris is well aware of the implications of precarity for any kind of organizing among Millennials: “If we’re built top-to-bottom to struggle against each other for the smallest of edges, to cooperate not in our collective interest but in the interests of a small class of employers — and we are — then we’re hardly equipped to protect ourselves from larger systemic abuses.”

Un mouvement de masse d’attention :

I am less interested in a mass exodus from Facebook and Twitter than I am in a mass movement of attention: what happens when people regain control over their attention and begin to direct it again, together.

L’attention comme ouverture aux possibles :

If, as I’ve said, attention is a state of openness that assumes there is something new to be seen, it is also true that this state must resist our tendency to declare our observations finished — to be done with it. For James as for von Helmholtz, this means that there is no such thing as voluntary sustained attention. Instead, what passes for sustained attention is actually a series of successive efforts to bring attention back to the same thing, considering it again and again with unwavering consistency. Furthermore, if attention attaches to what is new, we must be finding ever newer angles on the object of our sustained attention — no small task.

L’opinion et la conversation :

If critical distance is what we’re after, I think there is an important distinction to make between isolating oneself versus removing oneself from the clamor and undue influence of public opinion. After all, it is public opinion that social media exploits, and public opinion that has no patience for ambiguity, context, or breaks with tradition. Public opinion is not looking to change or to be challenged; it is what wants a band to keep making songs exactly like the hit they once had. Conversations, whether with oneself or with others, are different.

Discuter de la pluie et du beau temps, discuter du biorégionalisme :

All of that said, the reason I suggest the bioregion as a meeting grounds for our attention is not simply because it would address species loneliness, or because it enriches the human experience, or even because I believe our physical survival may depend on it. I value bioregionalism for the even more basic reason that, just as attention may be the last resource we have to withhold, the physical world is our last common reference point. At least until everyone is wearing augmented reality glasses 24/7, you cannot opt out of awareness of physical reality. The fact that commenting on the weather is a cliché of small talk is actually a profound reminder of this, since the weather is one of the only things we each know any other person must pay attention to.

Vers une écologie du numérique :

Today, when we are threatened not only with biological desertification but cultural desertification, we have so much to learn from the basics of ecology. A community in the thrall of the attention economy feels like an industrial farm, where our jobs are to grow straight and tall, side by side, producing faithfully without ever touching. Here, there is no time to reach out and form horizontal networks of attention and support — nor to notice that all the non-“productive” life-forms have fled. Meanwhile, countless examples from history and ecological science teach us that a diverse community with a complex web of interdependencies is not only richer but more resistant to takeover.

La rupture du contexte :

What I want to emphasize here is that the way this process happened for me with birds was spatial and temporal; the relationships and processes I observed were things adjacent in space and time. For me, a sensing being, things like habitat and season helped me make sense of the species I saw, why I was seeing them, what they were doing and why. Surprisingly, it was this experience, and not a study on how Facebook makes us depressed, that helped me put my finger on what bothers me so much about my experience of social media. The information I encounter there lacks context, both spatially and temporally.

Le barrage d’inanités comme forme la plus efficace de censure :

Barassi quotes an activist from Ecologistas en Acción, a confederation of Spanish ecological groups: Everybody says that there is no censorship on the internet, or at least only in part. But that is not true. Online censorship is applied through the excess of banal content that distracts people from serious or collective issues.

La bibliothèque comme « tiers lieu » échappant aux logiques commerciales :

I feel the same way about libraries, another place where you go with the intention of finding information. In the process of writing this book, I realized that the experience of research is exactly opposite to the way I usually often encounter information online. When you research a subject, you make a series of important decisions, not least what it is you want to research, and you make a commitment to spend time finding information that doesn’t immediately present itself. You seek out different sources that you understand may be biased for various reasons. The very structure of the library, which I used in Chapter 2 as an example of a noncommercial and non-“productive” space so often under threat of closure, allows for browsing and close attention. Nothing could be more different from the news feed, where these aspects of information — provenance, trustworthiness, or what the hell it’s even about — are neither internally coherent nor subject to my judgment. Instead this information throws itself at me in no particular order, auto-playing videos and grabbing me with headlines. And behind the scenes, it’s me who’s being researched.

Une autre manière de décrire un parti politique :

When I try to imagine a sane social network it is a space of appearance: a hybrid of mediated and in-person encounters, of hours-long walks with a friend, of phone conversations, of closed group chats, of town halls. It would allow true conviviality — the dinners and gatherings and celebrations that give us the emotional sustenance we need, and where we show up for each other in person and say, “I am here fighting for this with you.” It would make use of non-corporate, decentralized networking technology, both to include those for whom in-person interaction is difficult and to create nodes of support in different cities when staying in one place is increasingly an economic privilege.