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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

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This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world. When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and product This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world. When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and products to be monetized, nothing can be quite so radical as… doing nothing. Here, Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.


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This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world. When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and product This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world. When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and products to be monetized, nothing can be quite so radical as… doing nothing. Here, Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.

30 review for How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Truce

    First, I understand the negative reviews of this book. The title is misleading as this is not at all a how-to on unplugging or leaving social media (for that, maybe read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism or Catherine Price’s How to Break Up With Your Phone). Instead it’s a really well-researched book on some abstract and sometimes seemingly esoteric concepts: the self, attention, bioregionalism, what it means to refuse/resist in place, and the effects of late stage capitalism on all of the above. First, I understand the negative reviews of this book. The title is misleading as this is not at all a how-to on unplugging or leaving social media (for that, maybe read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism or Catherine Price’s How to Break Up With Your Phone). Instead it’s a really well-researched book on some abstract and sometimes seemingly esoteric concepts: the self, attention, bioregionalism, what it means to refuse/resist in place, and the effects of late stage capitalism on all of the above. There is really no how-to in this book, and I don’t think Odell’s work here can be even halfway summarized with buzzwords like “mindfulness” or “digital detox” or whatever. The bulk of this book is about the things that we are unable to do when our attention is tied up in social media or the news cycle. Yes, at the most basic level, social media and the news cycle take away our ability to reflect and think deeply about what’s actually happening underneath the status updates and headlines. But beyond that, it can erode our relationships with other people, with time, and with the environment around us. What parts of our identities get lost when we boil all of our ideas down to 280-character tweets that offend no one? When we think of people as brands and corporations as people, how does that effect our ability to actually connect with others or even with ourselves? Odell first asks us to rethink the idea of “usefulness” and to really challenge this tendency to think of time and attention as commodities, something we’ve mostly taken for granted in the gig economy. She uses an example of an old-growth redwood tree in Oakland that is useless for human consumption — ironically it is its “uselessness” that saves it from being cut down for timber, making it the only tree of its generation to survive. They even call it “Old Survivor.” Yes, there are parts of the book that were near-inaccessible. Many of her descriptions of art exhibits were difficult to grasp, and her focus on bioregionalism was sometimes challenging to get through. I imagine there are a lot of us who just don’t see ourselves giving up our phones for a life of birdwatching or going to symphonies where a pianist plays nothing for three movements. But I thought of those parts as stretching my limits of understanding — this book was kind of a key to get me to try to pay attention to something different. I did, admittedly, download the iNaturalist app after reading this book. What I appreciate about Odell’s approach is that she earnestly considers race and class in the how and why of resisting the attention economy. When reading Digital Minimalism, I found Newport had some stark blind spots — he says little of race and class, and women were conspicuously absent from his book. In contrast, Odell’s references are wonderfully diverse; yes, she references Thoreau a lot, but she also draws wisdom from Audre Lorde, labor movements, and environmental justice, among many other things. She provides historical context to all this, as an antidote to social media’s tendency to keep us forever anxious about the present. Also, while other books about the same topic tend to treat the hijacking of our attention and the tyranny of algorithms as foregone conclusions, thereby making digital detoxing seem like a life or death situation, Odell manages to avoid sensationalizing and instead invites us to another way. What had me screaming “YAS QUEEN” at my Kindle was the stuff she had to say about the right to not express oneself. I am a writer, but in the past two years I rather counterintuitively deleted my Twitter and Facebook accounts (my whole platform!) because I was so f*cking tired of reading everyone’s hot takes and of the pressure of having to constantly post hot takes myself. I wanted silence, the time and space to actually think my own thoughts about a situation or event or thing. I also really wanted to consider the question of what makes an opinion worth expressing and why. I truly thought I stood alone on this, that maybe I was just bitter because I haven’t been able to quit my day job for “a job in social media that I’m passionate about” that seemingly everyone on Twitter has. It was comforting and refreshing to know that someone out there felt the same way and was able to articulate those feelings much better than I ever could.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Sampson

    full disclosure i literally only had one page left to read in this book but i left my backpack with it inside a chipotle, anyways it still changed my life

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    So how could it happen that even not within a generation all humans have been transformed into smombies and what happens when someone stops getting permanent outer input and listening to all inner voices and soliloquies? Cleaning silence, awareness for each moment or, ta-da, mindfulness. One must imagine what the extremely slight context to other topics of all this information dump does to brain, logic and mind. The focus that originates from reading a book, working, writing, thinking, etc. doesn So how could it happen that even not within a generation all humans have been transformed into smombies and what happens when someone stops getting permanent outer input and listening to all inner voices and soliloquies? Cleaning silence, awareness for each moment or, ta-da, mindfulness. One must imagine what the extremely slight context to other topics of all this information dump does to brain, logic and mind. The focus that originates from reading a book, working, writing, thinking, etc. doesn´t come in these cases at the cost of real effort, but with easy and sweet intermittent positive reinforcement. Emotional, funny, shocking and, most important, frightening news flashes, tweets, burning hot latest news, kitten and food porn. And similar kind of as I heard a friend of a friend recently talk about. There is pretty much capacity for getting lost in the social network dragnets controlled by ominous spiders and the desire to acquire some of those precious, pretty products and to fear some of those gritty, evil immigrant communist terrorist leftist,... grows. Again, a huge real-life experiment in how messed up brains get in as less time as possible, especially including VR, AR and more and more realistic video game graphics. This book has a more philosophical approach than "Digital Minimalism, How to break up with your phone, etc." It´s about digging deeper, probably asking: "Hm, who could benefit from this development of tailored filter bubbles and news brought to each device." Even people who know that newspapers, TV news channels, etc. aren´t really trustworthy, tend to believe their personalized newsfeed. I mean, it comes from friends, family and is related to hobbies and all such feel-good stuff, so it can´t be that bad. Except for turning one in a permanent passive, easy to manipulate recipient of permanent mind spam that eats away lifetime. As a solution, the author presents bioregionalism, less consumerism, more decentralization and the average suspects for a better world, but as long as humans don´t realize the grade and sophistication of media and news manipulation, those noble ideas and ideals are chanceless against glittering, glamorous gamification and shopaholism. An untrained mind is not just like a monkey, it is an easy to trick one that; OMG, I need that product I didn´t even know about now!; eats each shiny banana given by a stranger, no matter how poisonous and filled with psychoactive indoctrination drugs it might be. Now please go and click the banana like button under this objective and true review if you want more yellow enjoyment. A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this, yuck, ugh, boo, completely overrated real-life outside books: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioregi... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_ec...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Collective self-help for middle-class leftist intelligentsia. Has the feeling of taking a leisurely stroll with your loony hippie friend who is at once an overeducated ecosocialist and a crackpot Zen mind-hacker. You have no idea why she loves birdwatching so much (to her it's a proto-spiritual experience, to you it seems superficially like playing Pokémon Go) nor can you figure out how she affords to live on the Oakland-Piedmont border without a full-time job. The slick meta-takeaway is that th Collective self-help for middle-class leftist intelligentsia. Has the feeling of taking a leisurely stroll with your loony hippie friend who is at once an overeducated ecosocialist and a crackpot Zen mind-hacker. You have no idea why she loves birdwatching so much (to her it's a proto-spiritual experience, to you it seems superficially like playing Pokémon Go) nor can you figure out how she affords to live on the Oakland-Piedmont border without a full-time job. The slick meta-takeaway is that the very act of reading this book is an exercise in the kind of deliberate anti-productivity that Odell is urging. Can't decide if this is 2 or 4 stars so I'll give it a 3.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    It's hard for me to reconcile that the fundamental things the author talks about in this book: the attention economy, its link to capitalism, how we all need to slow down and think about what we're doing, are all true, and yet the tone is just so smug, lecturing, and talking down at the reader from the lofty heights of liberal academia, as opposed to rooted in the real world where the reader is, with the problem at hand. To give you an idea of one of the sentences: "If we think about what it mea It's hard for me to reconcile that the fundamental things the author talks about in this book: the attention economy, its link to capitalism, how we all need to slow down and think about what we're doing, are all true, and yet the tone is just so smug, lecturing, and talking down at the reader from the lofty heights of liberal academia, as opposed to rooted in the real world where the reader is, with the problem at hand. To give you an idea of one of the sentences: "If we think about what it means to 'concentrate' or 'pay attention' at an individual level, it implies alignment: different parts of the mind and even the body acting in concert and oriented towards the same thing." Why not just say, "Concentrating means the body and the mind working together"? The whole book is like this, very hard to get through, meandering through the author's personal journey and a checklist of philosophers who are too much to take in at times. It's a real shame, because the message, at its core, is very good.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A thoughtful, steadying book about the importance of doing nothing in a capitalist culture that always encourages productivity. Instead of providing hard and fast strategies to disengage from work and social media, Jenny Odell offers more of a smart, flowing reflection on the importance of separating ourselves from feeling like we have to work, feeling like we have to broadcast our lives on social media 24/7. She makes lots of astute observations about the monetization of time and the value of o A thoughtful, steadying book about the importance of doing nothing in a capitalist culture that always encourages productivity. Instead of providing hard and fast strategies to disengage from work and social media, Jenny Odell offers more of a smart, flowing reflection on the importance of separating ourselves from feeling like we have to work, feeling like we have to broadcast our lives on social media 24/7. She makes lots of astute observations about the monetization of time and the value of our attention, as well as the privilege that comes with the capacity to disconnect from our jobs and from forums like Facebook. She channels her energy into bioregionalism and encourages us to attune ourselves to our direct physical environments. Reading this book felt like going on a serene walk with a smart yet unpretentious friend. Odell’s ideas, while calmly expressed, carry great implications for redirecting our focus into our relationships and our environment instead of performing busyness and subsuming our identities in our productivity. At times I wanted just a bit more oomph, like a more directive stance on how we can actually fuel a shift to more often do nothing, either on the individual level or the societal level. Yet, Odell does provide small yet significant examples of that, both through what she shares of her own life and the artists she alludes to.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Felicia V. Edens

    I found an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book at the library where I work, so I was able to read this before the public gets to it this April. None of the other librarians had taken it, and I usually don't end up reading ARCs, but after looking at the cover a couple times, I found myself genuinely intrigued. As I finished the first chapter, I knew that I was going to read the entire thing. I am personally in a state of constant love and hate as well as inspiration and anxiety in terms of my rel I found an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book at the library where I work, so I was able to read this before the public gets to it this April. None of the other librarians had taken it, and I usually don't end up reading ARCs, but after looking at the cover a couple times, I found myself genuinely intrigued. As I finished the first chapter, I knew that I was going to read the entire thing. I am personally in a state of constant love and hate as well as inspiration and anxiety in terms of my relationship to social media (particularly Instagram), and this book spoke volumes to me about a term that is curiously not found anywhere within these pages: mindfulness. Odell probably omitted that word intentionally, as her goal in her personal and business life does not want to seduce readers into "hot" and "trending" terminology, as we know mindfulness has become over the past few years. Instead, she clearly explains her goals with the book right away, determined to tell us that How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy is not about convincing anyone to delete their social media accounts or to optimize their life via a mindset based on positivity or to learn how to focus on what it is *you* really want rather than caring about what others are telling you to want. Nor is it a scathing critique of the political and/or libidinal economy. Rather, what Odell is talking about in her book is this: simply, a contemporary understanding of time and space. But instead of these terms becoming vague philosophical abstractions, she roots the concepts of time and space in a sensible context: that of the here and now. Odell does not hide behind a mask of non-identity. She talks about where she grew up in California, her half-Filipino identity (despite never being to the Philippines), her experiences in the fast-paced corporate world of Silicone Valley, her boyfriend, her father, her friends, her home life and hobbies (bird watching), her affinity for the art-world, and more... she uses all of her experiences to draw out a fascinating map of history, geography, and present socio-political circumstance that surprisingly - at least for the next few years - will be able to speak to everyone that grew up with the proliferation of technology. Taking this personal vantage point, Odell traces back to the communes of the 1960s - explains what worked about them and what didn't (prepare yourself for a brilliant deconstruction of social design versus social activism). She goes back to Ancient Greece and reminds us of the cynic Diogenes, who lived life of resistance among the very community he denounced. She describes something that happened not too long ago in California: the strike of longshoremen who were over-worked by manual labor and the string of problems they encountered and how they began to work to solve them. How does this work into her title: *How To Do Nothing?* Well, her argument is that (and I agree), sometimes when you "do" nothing, you actually begin to pay attention to what's actually happening outside of yourself and consequently begin to engage with the world in a new, more nuanced, and intentional way, a way that understands context (which can be horrifyingly forgotten in the virtual realm), and a way that understands the self in relation to everything else. In a word, doing nothing enables us to interact with the environment *intelligently*. Using herself as an example, she explains her love for art via a review of her fascination with the art of David Hockney, via her interpretations of Thoreau, via her analysis of writers native to this land. She comes up with the concept of bioregionalism: an acknowledgement of the natural world that is understood as both specific to geography yet contingent on all other geographies within the world. You will find much about the expected (or not) topic of exploitative algorithms of current internet platforms. A topic always due for a reiteration. Keep in mind that this information is coming from first hand accounts of someone who worked in the industry for a time. Most importantly, you will find much about a form of presence that is inherently organic and ecological, something I think humanity is dire need of as we go through an almost traumatic, and actually traumatic for many, loss of natural resources. "...we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and 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." This book is a product of the 21st century, and it by no means intends to bring you something innovative and new. Odell's writing is a reiteration and underlining of stuff we have all heard before: stuff that Odell writes with enough attention, intention, and care that is becomes authentic. Now hurry up and read the book before authenticity becomes the newest commodity. Just kidding. But read the book before it's too late. Voluntate, studio, disciplina!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    Anyone who has run a public event where you show people other organisms has fielded the horrible, soul-crushing question, "But what does it do?" or worse, "What's it good for?" They're not unreasonable questions, perfectly understandable, human questions really, and at the same time completely maddening to an ardent naturalist, as if you'd just introduced your beloved mother to someone who then asked, "Nice to meet you, but what are you good for?" If I'm feeling forthright, I'll reply, "Nothing, Anyone who has run a public event where you show people other organisms has fielded the horrible, soul-crushing question, "But what does it do?" or worse, "What's it good for?" They're not unreasonable questions, perfectly understandable, human questions really, and at the same time completely maddening to an ardent naturalist, as if you'd just introduced your beloved mother to someone who then asked, "Nice to meet you, but what are you good for?" If I'm feeling forthright, I'll reply, "Nothing, really. What are you good for?" but maybe what I should start doing instead is kidnap the questioner and force them to listen to me read this entire book aloud. On the day last week when this book was published (or the media campaign began) a co-worker linked to it, an online colleague notified me about it, and my partner brought home a copy from one of our favorite bookstores, all totally independent of each other. It quickly became apparent that the author * lives in my town * lives in my old in neighborhood in my town * likes looking at birds and plants * cites Ursula K. LeGuin, Wendell Berry, Westworld, "Bartleby, the Scrivener," East Bay Yesterday, and countless other authors and works that have also passed through my brain at one time or another * uses the natural history recording tool and social network I help maintain Given this overwhelming karmic necessity of at least trying it, I'm happy to report the book hit home. It's awkward trying to summarize a work so concerned with holism, so maybe I won't and just dance around it like I usually do anyway. Odell describes something I have always found particularly compelling about natural history, namely that it is not about you, or not exclusively about you and your species and their concerns, but about all the other things around you, and what a profound relief it is to direct your attention wholly beyond your concerns, culture, economy, religion, etc., and focus on other beings. To Odell it's one manifestation of a mindset of selective attention, the titular "doing nothing" which really means doing anything other than creating value in capitalist terms, an entryway to an attentiveness that leads away from distraction and optimization and toward connections with land, with other organisms, and with other people, but it's also her chosen way to enact that mindset. Despite the fact that Odell cites iNaturalist as an example of tech that can assist with cultivating such attentiveness, it is kind of complicated. She writes, Once, when I was giving a talk on my research for this book at a Stanford urban studies working group, somebody asked whether using iNaturalist wasn't alienating me from the landscape, since it represented an itemizing, scientific view. I answered that while I had to admit it looked that way, the app was a necessary step in the remediation of my ignorance, a temporary crutch. This is something I've thought about a bunch over the years, and I don't think iNat is unambiguously on one side of this dichotomy or the other. I think everyone who finds it rewarding has a bit of that itemizing instinct, and the itemizing mindset *can* be somewhat alienating. Mastery over taxonomy and nomenclature is satisfying in and of itself, and there is a temptation to just name things and move on, to catalog without understanding and observing more about each individual being you behold. Take it too far and you get Pokemon, a mindless leveling-up that is meaningless outside of the game. The camera is also alienating. In addition to physically separating you from your subject, taking a picture often means disturbing your subject, or at least depicting it in an atypical situation (every picture of a wrentit has the bird perching on a twig, in the open, in bright sunlight, while a more typical viewing would be a microsecond glance of that dolefully pale iris peering at you from deep inside the dark center of a coyotebush). I should also point out that we employ many of the distracting devices Odell warns against, from red notifications in the header of our site to annoying emails, and even gamification in certain contexts (largely despite my misgivings; I still maintain the green "Research Grade" label was a bad move, despite people's attachment to it). And, let's face it, the time you spend looking at your phone using iNat in the field is time you're not witnessing the thing you're ostensibly observing. That said, it's also true that I've learned a lot from iNat (as a user, not just as staff). I've used it in the way Odell describes, as a crutch in situations where I was ignorant, particularly while traveling. It has also elaborated on my interests and attentiveness in ways I would never have guessed: I pay attention to butterflies almost entirely because of the infectious interest of someone I met on iNat; I often recognize and appreciate creatures in the field *because* I saw them on iNat; I can't count the number of times I've noticed some novel detail or creature simply because I slowed down to take a picture of something else entirely. Even our computer vision system, which provides the "magical" automatic identifications our software is becoming known for and which could be described as a very shallow way to understand nature, is really the distillation of the sort of attentive focus Odell describes, applied by many thousands of people and delivered quickly by an algorithm. The technical processing is, of course, impressive, but the real value comes from all those people focusing their attention. And the hope is that even if the interaction is shallow, people will want to keep wading toward the depths. Ach, enough about iNat. While this is not really a self-help book, I think one lesson for me is to apply my naturalist's attentiveness more generally. I also share the author's interest in human history, but I haven't really made the leap to engaging in human community (like, actually getting to know different people), let alone to activism. The connection between attentiveness to the natural world and attentiveness to other people doesn't strike me as naturally as it does Odell, but perhaps it would if I was more self-conscious about my attention. Ok, there you go, Goodreads. Monetize my thoughts!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adriana

    I found Odell to be a great writer, truly. She has an airy, atmospheric and journalistic tone to her prose, while also imbuing her ideas with an impressive amount of supporting research. However, this book doesn't know what it wants to be - a guide for others, or her personal journaling/thesis on how the author lives her life. The basis on which it was written, at first, is to demonstrate resisting a constant state of capitalist productivity - so the idea presented here is for those of us who hav I found Odell to be a great writer, truly. She has an airy, atmospheric and journalistic tone to her prose, while also imbuing her ideas with an impressive amount of supporting research. However, this book doesn't know what it wants to be - a guide for others, or her personal journaling/thesis on how the author lives her life. The basis on which it was written, at first, is to demonstrate resisting a constant state of capitalist productivity - so the idea presented here is for those of us who have drunk the Kool Aid from the Digital Detox movement, realized that it has its own agenda (making sure your time is well spent...in productivity, of course), and are looking for alternate philosophies to navigating today's murky waters, while insisting fishies pulling us in all possible directions... If Cal Newport's Deep Work/Digital Minimalism is at one end of the spectrum, telling you how to free up space in your life for what is important (with the focus, however, being on economically important work/craft), How to Do Nothing is at the other end - this doesn't discuss actually doing nothing at all with your life, but making space for the the ephemeral, soul-growing-type things which make us human, that aren't, and can never be, quantified by an economy as ''useful''. Things such as this can include: communing with nature (sitting in parks, walks, hikes, gardening, the like), connecting with strangers/your community, art (in all contextual mediums), personal activities such as making your own autonomous choices about what to read/watch/enjoy, and others. However, the bulk of Odells' book spends too much of its time explaining the cultural, historical, and empirical evidence for how the author herself ''does nothing'' via birdwatching (bird ''listening'', rather), creating/speaking about art, trying to reconnect with her Bay Area land/neighborhoods...which is all great for her, but doesn't necessarily connect with the reader, and it didn't connect with me at all. Even her final chapter bit about social media provided no new insights other than what you'd probably discuss with your own friends/family or overhear at a coffee shop. While I do appreciate her own insights, I didn't feel that this book accomplished what it sought out to do - ''how'' to do nothing implies a methodology, an organized way of thinking through a process - even if the process is more philosophical than material - which was lacking here. Perhaps this had better been called ''I did Nothing: And Resisted the Attention Economy''.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I probably should have sat in silence and watched birds instead of reading this book. There is no thesis here and no new insights. We need to know how to do nothing. Maybe it's for a different generation, but my generation grew up being terribly bored and I honestly do not miss it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kazen

    Reading How to Do Nothing was an odd experience, mostly because I was intensely interested in some sections and was utterly bored through others. It didn't feel coherent, which is weird and unfortunate because Odell obviously put a lot of thought into each chapter. She starts by pointing out that social media and apps that increasingly demand our attention have changed the way we think, work, and spend our time. We aim for productivity, work in a gig economy, and scroll through addictive feeds wh Reading How to Do Nothing was an odd experience, mostly because I was intensely interested in some sections and was utterly bored through others. It didn't feel coherent, which is weird and unfortunate because Odell obviously put a lot of thought into each chapter. She starts by pointing out that social media and apps that increasingly demand our attention have changed the way we think, work, and spend our time. We aim for productivity, work in a gig economy, and scroll through addictive feeds while simultaneously feeling more worried about and separate from the world around us. After explaining the impossibility of running away completely she touches on ways we can refuse the attention economy, how to open ourselves to new ways of seeing, and the importance of connecting with where we live - its history, ecology, and the fellow humans living there. Odell discusses some amazing concepts, and some will stick with me. There's the idea that we can different people in different real-life groups - a happy drunk with college friends, a hard-working professional with coworkers, an erudite conversationalist at a dinner party. Once you put yourself on social media, however, you're the same person to everyone from childhood friends to potential employers. As a result you have to water yourself down to the most innocuous version, else risk offending someone today or years down the line. You go from many identities to just one. There's the thought that algorithms on Facebook and Spotify do such an amazing job of predicting what you'll like that it's unlikely you'll try something new or find a favorite song in a genre you usually don't listen to. That we're constantly pressured to be more productive... but who does that productivity serve? They're fascinating ideas to think about. Some chapters, though, are duds for me. I did not need to read dozens of pages about why various communes failed in the 1960s. I also didn't like the long descriptions of paintings and performance art. I flashed back to reading Sara Baume's A Line Made by Walking, but this is nonfiction and the writing isn't as strong. As a result I'm a fan of the concepts but not of the telling, and the dead boring sections prevent me from giving it anything more than three stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

    This book is so vital for our generation — we who are more connected than ever before but still more lonely + alienated than ever. Social media / digitization of everyone and everything has fundamentally shifted our understandings of time/space/labor/identity/body and works like this are beginning to account for that and theorize accordingly. Odell takes social media companies to task for competing for our attentiveness + making us invest in the construction of digital worlds all the while the p This book is so vital for our generation — we who are more connected than ever before but still more lonely + alienated than ever. Social media / digitization of everyone and everything has fundamentally shifted our understandings of time/space/labor/identity/body and works like this are beginning to account for that and theorize accordingly. Odell takes social media companies to task for competing for our attentiveness + making us invest in the construction of digital worlds all the while the physical world around us falls apart. She is thinking through what it means to reclaim intimacy, connectivity, and resistance amidst the over-saturation of stimulation the Internet age has proliferated (re: think-piece economy). For Odell “silence” and “nothing,” are not absences, they are presences pregnant with possibility. their stillness kindles another way to relate to ourselves and the world around us, one that allows us to both relish and relax more. “Doing nothing,” isn’t about a total digital detox, it’s about excavating a third space that is of the digital world + outside of it. It’s about being able to reclaim our attentiveness and redirect it into the things that matter to us. I didn’t agree with all of Odell’s arguments and thought that more attention could have been paid to creators who redeploy social media technologies for meaningful change + found that the romanticism of the “offline” and “nature” often rehashed reductive binaries between the digital/real. This prevented an honest engagement withhow for many marginalized people the Internet is the closest to the real we might have access to. But besides that, reading this was an absolute delight because Odell, an artist herself, uplifts performance + visual art as a form of scholarship that teaches us other ways to exist, she curates + presents such an exquisite + compelling archive of philosophies, movement histories, + creative works that offer so much promise + possibility, and she models a form of writing that is situated in the social + ecological worlds she inhabits. The text is both personal + political, emotional + structural, + that intimate holding of the micro/micro and earnest ambition for an otherwise was so precious and engaging. Thank you Jenny!

  13. 4 out of 5

    7jane

    Taste: strawberry-flavored hard candy I confess that one of the reasons for picking up this book was the cover art *lol* And I confess that I didn't know what this nothing meant - perhaps for laziness? Four-day work week? But I'm just joking here. The main point is this: stop giving so easily attention to what the media chaos-god is asking from you (and it asks for all), for there is a big source for anxiety, fear, and despair, if things get out of control. Instead take time back: go to places of Taste: strawberry-flavored hard candy I confess that one of the reasons for picking up this book was the cover art *lol* And I confess that I didn't know what this nothing meant - perhaps for laziness? Four-day work week? But I'm just joking here. The main point is this: stop giving so easily attention to what the media chaos-god is asking from you (and it asks for all), for there is a big source for anxiety, fear, and despair, if things get out of control. Instead take time back: go to places of nature - inside-gardens, parks, bigger parks outside town. Go make contact with people, take part in your community, learn of the history of the place you're living in. It is understandable that not all have the financies, time, or supportive people to do many things here, but merely refusing attention from some forms of media can be just the right little things, even if the time doing so it little too. The author is an artist, writer, and teaches at Stanford University. I loved her enthusiasm about nature, her dedication to her city. I loved encountering familiar things: Epicurus, Thomas Merton, Diogenes, Melville's "Bartleby The Scrivener", Thoreau, David Hockney, John Cage, Martin Buber, Emily Dickinson, DF Wallace, Audre Lorde, radio stations (I miss good radio stations). The book is laid out like this: 1.Chapter (the original text (from spring 2017) from which things were expanded into the book): a case for nothing, the basic message of the book 2.Chapter: why it is better to stay and try where you live, instead of "escaping the world" into the countryside communes (there's a large point of criticism against libertarians here) 3.Chapter: refusal-in-place, some history, why only some can afford this and what one can do instead 4.Chapter: a look into art, some personal reflections in new forms of attention 5.Chapter: what her ideal online network would be, why progress isn't always the word, but doing instead repair for progress's damage Mention of a book I need to read J.Ackerman's "The Genius Of Birds". Mention of what the word 'relatives' used to mean (page 28 of my book). The interesting thing of suddenly being able to see something of your interest everywhere (fe. birds, certain number, pregnant women...) Checking out what Paul Klee's "Angelus Novus" painting looks like. What I got out of it: (view spoiler)[ * go often into nature, do nothing or do little while there. checking the nature when you're traveling can also be interesting. learn about animals and plants and places near you. * have a humble, ethical life * take part in nature protection, support and visit your local culture things (museums, libraries, community) * question "productivity", hysteria and fears sparked up in media (like digging up old tweets etc.) * try mindfulness. do deep listening (listening-to-everything around you). do deep watching (take in all things and their details). * try bird-watching, go biking, read read read * spend time with people, in real life (like chatting, being together, sharing information and opinions) * limit your time in media (incl. news). seek and find context to things posted there. * recognise your own moments of prejudice (doing just this alone sparks good growth) * QUESTION things * try NEW things (so you won't limit yourself to things you already are and already like) * value your sleep time (hide spoiler)] I thought this would be a light book on some philosophical ramblings, not necessarily a book I would end up keeping. I was wrong: I got numerous ideas, numerous realizations from reading this book. The author didn't sum up her points at the end, so making notes of them while reading was a good idea (see some above). Surpsing and very worth it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chessa

    Like others, this book is not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a how-to, self-help book but instead this is a very heady, very academic and well-researched treatise on attention, culture, and our society at large. I didn’t get to finish because of a slew of family events, but what I read I did...respect? I never was excited to pick the book back up, but once I did I always found the author’s arguments original and well-founded - I found myself wanting to highlight a LOT. This book i Like others, this book is not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a how-to, self-help book but instead this is a very heady, very academic and well-researched treatise on attention, culture, and our society at large. I didn’t get to finish because of a slew of family events, but what I read I did...respect? I never was excited to pick the book back up, but once I did I always found the author’s arguments original and well-founded - I found myself wanting to highlight a LOT. This book is for deep thinkers, armchair philosophers, and those interested in peeling back the layers of our constructed reality.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    I started out a bit frustrated with this - it felt a bit academic, a bit too keen to wear its intelligence on its sleeve (I think I just get annoyed when people refer to Greek philosophers too much). But once I settled into Odell's style, I really warmed to it - this is so much more than a self-help guide to ditching twitter, it's an argument about modern life more broadly and the value of paying sustained attention to things (both the inherent value and the value in terms of achieving any meani I started out a bit frustrated with this - it felt a bit academic, a bit too keen to wear its intelligence on its sleeve (I think I just get annoyed when people refer to Greek philosophers too much). But once I settled into Odell's style, I really warmed to it - this is so much more than a self-help guide to ditching twitter, it's an argument about modern life more broadly and the value of paying sustained attention to things (both the inherent value and the value in terms of achieving any meaningful political progress). Odell draws together discussion of art, ecology, sociology and science in thoughtful and surprising ways and her emphasis on the joys of birdwatching obviously found a sympathetic reader in me. Lots to chew over here - would love to hear what others' thought.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nada Elshabrawy

    it exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be a lame self-help book. but it wasn't!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tara Schoenherr

    Odell has some interesting points but good lord does it seem like she would be exhausting to talk to at a party

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vartika Rastogi

    While our lives stew in the panic brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, I find it incredibly frustrating that people are more concerned about their loss of productivity than the idea of possible death. Especially in a country like India, where the sheer population makes everything competitive, productivity is a term connoting quantity rather than quality. In the midst of this literal scramble to market everything, including one's self, for money, all I want to do is nothing. Jenny Odell's While our lives stew in the panic brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, I find it incredibly frustrating that people are more concerned about their loss of productivity than the idea of possible death. Especially in a country like India, where the sheer population makes everything competitive, productivity is a term connoting quantity rather than quality. In the midst of this literal scramble to market everything, including one's self, for money, all I want to do is nothing. Jenny Odell's How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy articulates exactly how I have been feeling, and irrigates my ideas with some brilliant examples from art, nature, and science. This is not a self-help book. It is not a book about taking downtime from work or social media, nor is it a book aiming at making us spend our time better. Rather, this is a reminder of our power to pay attention to all the things we tune out because of the mindless traffic of information around us today. How To Do Nothing has a more contemplative approach (in response) to the issues of our age: our obsession with measuring everything with the yardstick of its usefulness, with optimising everything tangible or otherwise, and with associating progress with newness while dismissing regeneration even as it is what sustains life. It also touches upon how the deadly cocktail of capitalism, social media and persuasive design sells us a way of living bereft of context with an unnatural need to maintain consistent selves ("a personal brand), and forces us into (productive, but often futile) action (or mere engagement) by inducing an aestheticised anxiety. True to its tone, this book does not offer tailor-made solutions. What I found highly enjoyable about it is that it illustrates its points by looking at life — be it in art, bioregionalism, or the author's own experiences (it is precisely this blend of partly autobiographical narrative and observation that makes Olivia Laing's The Lonely City so rewarding) If one has to give into productive parlance, I'd say that some of the most essential "takeaways" from this book are the facts that (i) I am not the center of the world (where I = me, humankind) (ii) it isn't humans but the institutions we have created (and lately, reinforced) that undo us; the power to think and the urge to observe can undo these institutions. This may be the last productive thing I do, ready as I am to live in a permanent state of refusal. As for you, if you haven't given these issues a thought (especially if you haven't given going beyond a "social detox" a thought), this book may change your life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Guillaume Morissette

    This book rules, this felt so good to read

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sweetheart_Seer

    *I was sent an e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.* Let's start with the negatives and work our way to the positives to end on a high note, shall we? The Bad: ♤ Bogged down with information dump at times. ♤ Not very cohesive at times/jumping around too much. ♤ Not as engaging as I thought it would be. ♤ Odd topic changes and reaches to try to make certain information fit that didn't feel right or necessary. Like, more should be edited out to make the points better and not over expl *I was sent an e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.* Let's start with the negatives and work our way to the positives to end on a high note, shall we? The Bad: ♤ Bogged down with information dump at times. ♤ Not very cohesive at times/jumping around too much. ♤ Not as engaging as I thought it would be. ♤ Odd topic changes and reaches to try to make certain information fit that didn't feel right or necessary. Like, more should be edited out to make the points better and not over explain as much. ♤ Overuse of phrase "I can't help but wonder" like, okay Carrie Bradshaw. ♤ Strong political slant. ♤Too many big sections of quotes were used. Now for the good stuff: ♡ Several good points made. ♡ VERY well researched. ♡ Clear points of not trying to completely abandon social media, but rather to make good use of it and not let it consume you. ♡ Included references to HBO show "Westworld" ♡ All the talk on bird watching. Seriously, ever since I read "Odd Birds: by Ian Harding, I enjoy me some books on birding. The good stuff was really good, but the bad was just too bad. I was so tempted to rate it at a three, but the bad weighed in heavier for me here and it just is what it is. Worth a read, but maybe skim the extra stuff to get the main points cause it dragged on and on in a lot of spots where it didn't need to.

  21. 4 out of 5

    mindful.librarian ☀️

    Setting aside at page 50. Yet another book my brain isn’t quite advanced enough to fully engage with.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Possibly in Michigan, London

    A very short review which doesn't do justice to this book: yes, I was taken by the self-helpy title. I was hoping that it would provide some guidelines based on extensive research into how we all get hooked on refreshing feeds full of people we don't know talking about things that we pretty much instantly forget about as soon as we close our browser (that's just me, maybe). Instead, I got birds. This is fine! I don't dislike birds, although I am not keen on the finding-self-in-nature essay/book. A very short review which doesn't do justice to this book: yes, I was taken by the self-helpy title. I was hoping that it would provide some guidelines based on extensive research into how we all get hooked on refreshing feeds full of people we don't know talking about things that we pretty much instantly forget about as soon as we close our browser (that's just me, maybe). Instead, I got birds. This is fine! I don't dislike birds, although I am not keen on the finding-self-in-nature essay/book. They all sound same to me, as much as I very vaguely want to be that kind of person. Jenny Odell champions bioregionalism, which, according to wiki, means 'advocacy of the belief that human activity should be largely constrained by ecological or geographical boundaries rather than political ones'. This attention to our surroundings is needed urgently (climate change), while being 'grounding', and a way of defying the gravitational pull of social media and its monetising of our time, attention and self-expression. This is a very simple take on her complicated argument, but either way, you'll learn a lot about the East Bay area, because Odell has learnt a lot about it since she's been practicing bioregionalism. I felt like she needed to make much stronger connections to what the book is ostensibly about (resisting the attention economy). In the first half, she does address this but v unsatisfactorily in my opinion. I mean, adopting a Bartleby pose of 'I would prefer not to' seems so...depressing. I'm very into the idea of questioning the terms of the question posed (in debates, in political coverage, on social media) but how do we set out an alternative vision after that? Personally I hate those reviews that are like 'this is not exactly the book that I was looking for' but I do feel that this book is essentially an extended personal essay. There are great sections - I had never heard of Diogenes, though I had heard of the lamp story, and performance art is so much more interesting and radical than I had thought - but the focus on the very particular (which is what she argues for, I guess) meant there was less of the juicy stuff. For example, I'd like to know more about persuasive design and ethics (though googling would probably turn up a ton of articles). At one point, Odell critiques the focus on the designers because it suggests that we - the users of social media - have no responsibility of our own. But that's like claiming that advertising had no responsibility in making people buy cigarettes or something. And on a very basic level, so many people have to use social media for work and general life and activism. She doesn't say 'stop using social media altogether' but I think there's just a lot more flexibility in her schedule as a professor/artist than afforded to the average person. I guess...I'd like to read a book about how we retain a sense of self in the social media age? I also noticed that there wasn't a great variety of voices in her writing. There are other artists, yes, but not...non-artists. Who are the other people using social media? Anyway, there are definitely good bits (such as the fascinating history of communes) but I was not invested in Odell's personal journey, which I think you'd really have to be to appreciate this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Subashini

    "It's tempting to conclude this book with a single recommendation about how to live. But I refuse to do that. That’s because the pitfalls of the attention economy can’t just be avoided by logging off and refusing the influence of persuasive design techniques; they also emerge at the intersection of issues of public space, environmental politics, class, and race." This is not at all a how-to, but a multidisciplinary work on engaging with the world outside of the corporate-controlled attention econ "It's tempting to conclude this book with a single recommendation about how to live. But I refuse to do that. That’s because the pitfalls of the attention economy can’t just be avoided by logging off and refusing the influence of persuasive design techniques; they also emerge at the intersection of issues of public space, environmental politics, class, and race." This is not at all a how-to, but a multidisciplinary work on engaging with the world outside of the corporate-controlled attention economy. It's dense and philosophical, incorporating theory, art criticism, tech, and nature writing. It made me see differently and want to exist differently. I love books that do that. We need more books to remind humans of our place in the vast planet—and to put us in our place. Similarly, we should resist low-key dehumanisation by corporations. We should not have to resist having our lives instrumentalised and reduced to the value of "eyeballs" on a website so that a small coterie of people can profit off of it, and yet here we are. This is about doing nothing, but it takes a whole book to explain how "doing nothing" is another way of doing a whole lot of something that is outside the logic of capitalism. We are all more than our value to capital. I appreciate a lot of the points Odell makes and am glad that books like this exist.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Campbell Disbrow

    this book about doing nothing somehow manages to be about… everything??? Everything includes: -pushing back against capitalist ideas of productivity and optimization and instead valuing observation and maintenance -Busyness as a “symptom of deficient vitality” -we romanticize being overworked because we’ve internalized that producing work is the greatest value we can contribute -the nonsense of the “personal brand” model of identity where we present ourselves as just a set of superficial, rigid, this book about doing nothing somehow manages to be about… everything??? Everything includes: -pushing back against capitalist ideas of productivity and optimization and instead valuing observation and maintenance -Busyness as a “symptom of deficient vitality” -we romanticize being overworked because we’ve internalized that producing work is the greatest value we can contribute -the nonsense of the “personal brand” model of identity where we present ourselves as just a set of superficial, rigid, (easily-marketed-to) opinions and tastes that we’re reluctant to change for fear of compromising that “identity” -American obsession with individualism that refuses to acknowledge the interconnectedness of not only people but also ecosystems, where our identity really ends up being a “fluid product of our interactions with others” -the possible laziness of just deleting social media instead of becoming disciplined enough to understand and resist the ways social media is manipulating and deceiving us: “not fleeing your enemy, but knowing your enemy -training ourself to see other beings not as just "inert matter or...an inefficiency" but as something with their own agency It's a universal recommend honestly but a particular recommend if you're into environmentalism, classical philosophy, crows, community organizing, fine art, UX, trash, 20th century debunked psychologists, Northern California, farming, dfw, or big trees.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    The title and cover had me intrigued. So many things take up our attention. Our phones. Social media. The show on the streaming service. Work. Etc. I thought this would be a great self-help book that would talk about how and why we should take the time to "do nothing." And since the author is in the middle of an area where a lot of this was born (or has strong connections to), I thought she might have more interesting insights. This...wasn't that. This was a lot of "academic-speak" on a topic tha The title and cover had me intrigued. So many things take up our attention. Our phones. Social media. The show on the streaming service. Work. Etc. I thought this would be a great self-help book that would talk about how and why we should take the time to "do nothing." And since the author is in the middle of an area where a lot of this was born (or has strong connections to), I thought she might have more interesting insights. This...wasn't that. This was a lot of "academic-speak" on a topic that didn't really need all of that that also couldn't quite decide what it wanted to be. A thesis? A memoir of her own experiences? Self-help and tips? A history of how we got here? No idea. It reads like one of those books that somehow got past an editor or the author wouldn't allow major changes, to, etc. Which is a pity because there were bits and pieces that were interesting, if underdeveloped. Borrowed from the library. Depending on what you're looking for, this might be a skip it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Philippe

    Unhelpfully enough I was too impatient while reading this book. Which is all about disengaging from our screens and taking time for observation and for reconnecting with the mundane but vital marginalia of our daily lifeworld. Odell's tone of voice is attractive enough. A sympathetic blend of the feminine and the masculine, of the nerdy and the bohemian. And she is terribly smart and well-read. But for some reason the mix of diary-like excursions and essayistic argumentation didn't gel, this tim Unhelpfully enough I was too impatient while reading this book. Which is all about disengaging from our screens and taking time for observation and for reconnecting with the mundane but vital marginalia of our daily lifeworld. Odell's tone of voice is attractive enough. A sympathetic blend of the feminine and the masculine, of the nerdy and the bohemian. And she is terribly smart and well-read. But for some reason the mix of diary-like excursions and essayistic argumentation didn't gel, this time, for me. And the hard thing, I suppose, is not the reading but the practice. I may, will probably return to this book. 3,5 stars for now.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vipassana

    I read this book in public spaces and was often asked what the book was about. I'd say, "It sounds like a self-help book but it's not." Having finished it, I think it is a self help book but structured unlike most books of the genre. Jenny Odell provides not only recommendations on how to interact with time and space in an age when our attention is someone's money, but she also shares the context within which she developed these recommendations. Her recommendations don't have the faux authoritat I read this book in public spaces and was often asked what the book was about. I'd say, "It sounds like a self-help book but it's not." Having finished it, I think it is a self help book but structured unlike most books of the genre. Jenny Odell provides not only recommendations on how to interact with time and space in an age when our attention is someone's money, but she also shares the context within which she developed these recommendations. Her recommendations don't have the faux authoritative tone that many self help books take. She recommends embracing bioregionalism to combat the forces vying for our minds. However, given the foundation she lays before concluding at bioregionalism could build to different activity that would serve the same purpose Beyond self-care and the ability to really listen, the practice of doing nothing has something broader to offer us: an antidote to the rhetoric of growth. 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. Thought and deliberation require incubation space and time, and our attention spans attuned to a succession of 280 characters struggle to create that space not only at the individual level but also humanity's collective attention and action struggles to create sustained action. (view spoiler)[Zeynep Tufecki's book, Twitter and Teargas talks about the difference in the kind of action social media spurs and would be a great companion to Odell's book. (hide spoiler)] Jenny Odell critiques the most popular voices of the time well spent movement that seeks to address our paucity of attention. It uses neatly consumerist language that requires humans to spend time in a productive way. Should we instead let go of the teleological nature that we live in? Odell says yes. -- July 2019

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    While "How to Do Nothing" is certainly more eye-catching, the subtitle "Resisting the Attention Economy" more accurately gets at Odell's larger project. Rather than snappy bits of advice, Odell instead offers us an extended meditation on how our world is being fundamentally restructured in a way so as to suspend us in an uneasy eternal present of context-less information, perpetually filling up the mental space needed to contemplate, process, and react. What I found wonderful—but I can imagine i While "How to Do Nothing" is certainly more eye-catching, the subtitle "Resisting the Attention Economy" more accurately gets at Odell's larger project. Rather than snappy bits of advice, Odell instead offers us an extended meditation on how our world is being fundamentally restructured in a way so as to suspend us in an uneasy eternal present of context-less information, perpetually filling up the mental space needed to contemplate, process, and react. What I found wonderful—but I can imagine is a source of frustration for some—is the circuitous routes Odell wanders down, which allows her reader to circle around and suddenly see familiar scenarios/habits/patterns from unexpected perspectives (her book "is less a lecture than an invitation to take a walk," she admits in the first few pages). I'm not widely read in this mode of writing, but Rebecca Solnit and Terry Tempest Williams come to mind as comparisons. On a more personal note, I loved how deeply rooted in Oakland and the East Bay area this book is, as opposed to San Francisco proper—another subtle way Odell manages to constantly position herself in an interestingly off-centered places to encourage the reader down different avenues of understanding and thought.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I do not understand how this book is so highly rated. The authors argument is impossible to follow. The book all over the place using historical references with long excerpts of quoted text. I gave up.

  30. 5 out of 5

    S!

    it has been a really long time since i have come across such a generous, kind hearted, open-minded, enlightening book and author. jenny odell has so, so, so much love for this world and this comes pouring out of her writing. her writing moved me to tears various times, because she so effortlessly highlights how wonderful humanity and nature can be. i’m really grateful for this book. this is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far and one of the best books i’ve read in the past couple it has been a really long time since i have come across such a generous, kind hearted, open-minded, enlightening book and author. jenny odell has so, so, so much love for this world and this comes pouring out of her writing. her writing moved me to tears various times, because she so effortlessly highlights how wonderful humanity and nature can be. i’m really grateful for this book. this is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far and one of the best books i’ve read in the past couple of years. i want to share this book with all my friends and all the strangers around me. odell put into words some ideas that i was in desperate need for and allowed me to look deep into myself and question many ideas i hold really tight to my chest (this all happened while reading, but i’m sure the real effects will be seen as time passess): mostly the idea that i never achieve many of the things i want? for example, i vaguely set myself some goal or other about healthy eating/drinking choices or brushing my teeth before bed, but when faced with the moment of making the choice i always just “turn my brain off” and do the opposite of what i know i should do…. only in the end to feel bad about it! and i’ve been stuck in this painful cycle for soooo long. but now i think i know what the answer is: it’s a matter of attention. of course it is. “turning my brain off” is me shrugging off the responsibility to pay attention to the right choices instead of the wrong ones. procrastination is not about laziness, but more about avoiding the negative feelings that come with performing certain actions. choices i have to make regarding my health, for example, make me confront a lot of negative feelings i have. anyway, this can be applied to all the choices. it’s about living deliberately and consciously, which may seem and actually is very exhausting sometimes, but is that not my duty to myself, to the world? She writes, “simple awareness is the seed of responsibility.” and i agree! and you know what also? if i can’t pay attention to the “small” choices that arguably only impact myself… how can i trust myself to pay attention to “bigger” choices that impact others? don’t help others until you’ve put on your own oxygen mask, as they say. which leads nicely to my second point: the truth of the matter is our attention is being controlled and monopolized and commodified by capitalism, by social media, by an intangible, insidious mass that floats and spreads itself over every aspect of our lives. this is terrifying, paralyzing even, but thanks to this book i feel a bit more empowered my participation to RESIST this and to CHANGE this is relevant, is important, is necessary, is valid. “my work is the work” and what that means is that we can all, should we choose to, do something about the mess we’re in because it’s worth it. the world is not hopeless, though it may seem so. we all have the ability to resist these mechanisms that exist to make us more "productive" or make us feel like cogs in the machine or how the news makes us feel depressed or void of feeling or panicked… it’s a completely personalized effort and there’s not right/wrong way, just your own way and i love how odell recognizes, over and over, that there is a privilege involved in being able to, for example, riot at work or go off on a “technology detox” vacation or to spend hours researching for context to denounce an inflammatory tweet, etc. there is a privilege involved, it’s true, which is why it’s even more important to look around and see what it is that we can do semi-comfortably (but not too comfortably) and do it anyway. reading this book seems, to me, like a good place to start. she highlights how the news cycle and social media prey on and build themselves upon the worst aspects of our psyche (envy, hysteria, exaggerations, etc). our calling is to resist these things through a wonderful concept called “resist in place”.... remember the last place they can get to is your mind, don’t let them take that too. resist convention, resist what doesn’t sit right with you. we don't owe capitalism. Jenny writes, “attention may be the last resource we have left to withdraw.” another idea that i valued a lot in this book is that productivity means nothing if it's not rooted in generating things for the benefit of our community and the environment. it means nothing if it's not rooted in love for others, in generosity, in kindness, in passion. it means nothing. she writes that we live submerged in a “mythology of productivity and progress” but what does productivity and progress even look like and for whom? what’s the use of productivity and progress that lays waste to something that already existed, that was good? or that happens at the expense of something else (ex: mental health or indigenous communities). nature, people, culture, art… don’t exist or have value based on what they can give or produce, they have value because they simply ARE. to do is enough. to do it within a space of love is enough. also! i loved the emphasis on public spaces. in my health psychology class my teacher makes a huge emphasis on public parks as something absolutely necessary to enrich a community’s collective mental health and for a while i’ve been asking myself why? but this book provided a great answer to that. we need spaces that we can all be in without the pressure of having to exchange services or goods. there’s no pressure there, we’re all on the same level because it is simply a public space, accessible to all and that’s beautiful. that's necessary. i love, love, love the reverence and respect and awe with which she wrote about everything from art to birds, to social media, to her teaching, to politics, to indigenous people, to trees, to the past, california, oakland, everything. it’s so clear that she loves this world so deeply!!!! and, i have to mention this, never did it feel like it was through a religious or spiritual lens because jenny is a self-described “quintessential California atheist” and i want to make it very clear that there’s nothing wrong with or that i’m against the religious or spiritual lens! it was simply nice to hear these sentiments expressed through a language i could connect to more. the world and this life is beautiful and the one of the ways to right our wrongs to it is to pay attention. i find that it’s important to understand that, even though things are capital B Bad, we have to move closer to the world, closer to the situations around us, not further away. with our arms outstretched. love and attention are the same thing….. our imperative to love and embrace this world as it is, embracing it and deeply believing in our ability to change ourselves for the better. how connected to everything we are, how a part of everything we are. how significant. thank you. edit, 5/16/2020: i had forgotten this book was the first one to mention and introduce me to robin wall kimmerer's braiding sweetgrass. of course, everything is delicately interconnected. how wonderful!

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