How to Do Nothing
Resisting the Attention Economy
by Jenny Odell
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: Time • The New Yorker • NPR • GQ • Elle • Vulture • Fortune • Boing Boing • The Irish Times • The New York Public Library • The Brooklyn Public Library
“This is a potentially subversive book. Affirming that we should take more time offline for nurturing our own thoughts (and so our own being) does not sound that new, but here it is so gracefully articulated in irresistible arguments.”—Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural
“Jenny Odell’s brilliant How to Do Nothing is the book we all need to read now. With wonderful precision, passion, and artfulness, Odell finds the language to meet this cultural moment. She has written a joyful manifesto about resistance that is also an eccentric and practical handbook on how to reclaim your colonized and monetized attention.”—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity, it can seem impossible to escape. But in this inspiring field guide to dropping out of the attention economy, artist and critic Jenny Odell shows us how we can still win back our lives.
Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. And we must actively and continuously choose how we use it. We might not spend it on things that capitalism has deemed important … but once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind’s role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress.
Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book will change how you see your place in our world.
Paperback | 256 pages | Melville House | 2020
Jenny Odell is an Oakland-based artist, writer, and educator. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, The Paris Review, The Believer, McSweeney’s, and Sierra Magazine. Her visual work has been exhibited internationally, including as a mural on the side of a Google data center in rural Oklahoma. Odell has been an artist-in-residence at the Internet Archive, the San Francisco Planning Department, and Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump). She is a lecturer in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University.
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