In 2020, we were forcibly thrust into the long-promised future of virtual hyper-connectivity. Given this new landscape, Jenny Odell's perceptive analysis of the anxious routines of our online lives has taken on new meaning. Going beyond simple critique, she offers a considered framework for reimagining our relationship with the virtual and the real. Recommended By Emily B., Powells.com
Jenny Odell has achieved a spectacular balancing act, resulting in a timely and beautiful book. It’s easier to list what this book is not: it is never scolding, simplistic, unrealistic, or naïve. As she says, she’s an artist who works in the medium of context, and that allows her to shed a fresh light on the current culture of presentational productivity, and provide a viable strategy to combat it. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"A complex, smart and ambitious book that at first reads like a self-help manual, then blossoms into a wide-ranging political manifesto." The New York Times Book Review
Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity . . . doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.
So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it). Odell sees our attention as the most precious — and overdrawn — resource we have. 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 is a four-course meal in the age of Soylent.
"How to Do Nothing is genuinely instructive, elaborating a practical philosophy to help us slow down and temporarily sidestep the forces aligned against both our mental health and long-term human survival. You can knock the hustle — and you should." Los Angeles Times
“Self-help for the collectively minded, How to Do Nothing is as thoughtful and morally serious as it is fun to read. This book will change how you see the world.” Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days
“Your chaotic, fraught internal weather isn’t an accident, it’s a business-model, and while 'thoughtful resistance' isn’t 'productive,' Odell proves that it is utterly necessary.” Cory Doctorow, author of Radicalized and Walkaway
“In How to do Nothing Jenny Odell breaks through the invisible yoke that binds 21st century first-worlders to our app-driven devices.... Wide-ranging and erudite, this book is also entertaining, and brings the reader along with enthusiasm to Odell’s philosophy of “manifest dismantling.” Megan Prelinger, author of Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age
About the Author
Jenny Odell is an artist and writer who teaches at Stanford, has been an artist-in-residence at places like the San Francisco dump, Facebook, the Internet Archive, and the San Francisco Planning Department, and has exhibited her art all over the world. She lives in Oakland.