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Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Ageby Maggie Jackson
Synopses & Reviews
We have oceans of information at our fingertips, yet we seek knowledge in Yahoo headlines glimpsed on the run. We are networked as never before, but we connect with friends and family via email and fleeting face-to-face moments that are rescheduled a dozen times.
Welcome to the land of distraction.
Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion and detachment. Our attention is scattered among the beeps and pings of a push-button world. We are less and less able to pause, reflect, and deeply connect.
Distracted is a gripping exposé of this hyper-mobile, cyber-centric, attention-deficient life. Day by day, we are eroding our capacity for deep attention — the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress. The implications for a healthy society are stark.
And yet we can recover our powers of focus through a renaissance of attention. Neuroscience is just now decoding the workings of attention, with its three pillars of focus, awareness, and judgment, and revealing how these skills can be shaped and taught. This is exciting news for all of us living in an age of overload.
In her sweeping quest to unravel the nature of attention and detail its losses, Maggie Jackson introduces us to scientists, cartographers, marketers, educators, wired teens, and even roboticists. She offers us a compelling wake-up call, an adventure story, and reasons for hope.
Pull over, hit the pause button, and prepare for an eye-opening journey. More than ever, we cannot afford to let distraction become the marker of our time.
"In this richly detailed and passionately argued book, Jackson (What's Happening to Home?) warns that modern society's inability to focus heralds an impending Dark Age — an era historically characterized by the decline of a civilization amid abundance and technological advancement. Jackson posits that 'our near-religious allegiance to a constant state of motion' and addiction to multitasking are 'eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention — the building block of intimacy, wisdom and cultural progress' and stunting society's ability to 'comprehend what's relevant and permanent.' The author provides a lively historical survey of attention, drawing upon philosophy, the impact of scientific innovations and her own experiences to investigate the possible genetic and psychological roots of distraction. While Jackson cites modern virtual life (the social network Facebook and online interactive game Second Life), her research is largely mired in the previous century, and she draws weak parallels between romance via telegraph and online dating, and supernatural spiritualism and a newfound desire to reconnect. Despite the detours (a cultural history of the fork?), Jackson has produced a well-rounded and well-researched account of the travails facing an ADD society and how to reinvigorate a 'renaissance of attention.' (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Technologically-drive information overload and distractions are causing fragmented attention and cultural decline, according to the author of What's Happening to Home? Balancing Work, Life, and Refuge in the Information Age (2002) and the "Balancing Acts" column in the Boston Globe. Jackson reviews relevant research that offers possible solutions. The book includes a foreword by Bill McKibben (The End of Nature), but it does not cite Nicholas Carr's similar argument in Is Google Making Us Stupid? Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Taking us beyond Blink and Faster, Jackson makes it clear that if we continue down this road of scattered attention spans and widespread societal ADD, we will be in danger of squandering and devaluing the essence of humanity, and our technological age could ultimately slip into cultural decline.
Jackson explores the erosion of deep, sustained attention--the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress--and offers the cutting-edge solutions needed to cure, not just live with, an epidemic of inattention.
About the Author
Maggie Jackson (New York, NY) is an award-winning author and journalist who writes the popular "Balancing Acts" column in the Boston Globe. Her work also has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio, among other national publications. Her acclaimed first book, Whats Happening to Home? Balancing Work, Life and Refuge in the Information Age, examined the loss of home as a refuge.
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