How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell [8/10]

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” is a call to action from American artist and writer Jenny Odell. Dealing with the ubiquitous right-now phenomenon of social media and big-data advertising, aka Facebook and Google (but many others as well), Odell exhorts us to move beyond “turning off” or quitting, to finding new ways (which are just old ways rebadged) to be present in the world while attempting, best as one can, to bend social media and the rest to our ends. Odell doesn’t come at this most fascinating and vital issue with the eyes of an academic but as an artist and activist, and the book isn’t easy going for a generalist and novelist like me. As she herself admits, her eagle eye skates all over the place, referencing all manner of art and politics, and her arguments can be dense to the point of loss of meaning, again when looked at from the perspective of an ordinary person like me. But in my reading, I forgave her all of that, because she offered exactly what I sought: intellectually fresh and lateral ways to view the issues. And she delivered in spades. I have tons of quotes from her pages to help me tease out my own views on this strange world I now inhabit. If, in the end, Odell’s climax cum conclusions offered me little, the journey was more than worth it. Highly recommended for its careening intellect and visions.

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