Jenny Odell

How to Do Nothing

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A galvanising critique of the forces vying for our attention — and our personal information — that redefines what we view as productivity and reveals what we’ve been too distracted to see about ourselves and our world.

Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our data productivity, doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.

So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to slowing down. Odell sees our attention as the most precious — and overdrawn — resource we have. Once we start paying a new kind of attention, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humanity’s role in the environment, and arrive at a more meaningful understanding of happiness and fulfilment.

Far from a simple anti-technology screed, How to Do Nothing is an action plan for thinking beyond capitalist narratives of efficiency and value. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, it shows us how to preserve our inner lives and bring about change in a world that needs this more than ever.

‘A manifesto for the internet age.’ —The A.V. Club

‘An invigorating meditation on ways of seeing and being more present … It’s a book that could change you for the better.’ —LitHub

‘[Odell] wants to give readers permission to be a human, in a body, in a place.’ —The Guardian

‘Thoughtful, compelling, and practical.’—GQ

‘Compelling, provocative and hopeful — a roadmap for stillness and reflection in an age of distraction.’—Jill Stark, author of Happy Never After and When You're Not OK

‘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

'Nuanced, sympathetic, thoughtful and imaginative, Odell's book explores the ways you can take back your attention without turning your back on the world. If, like me, you are trying to conserve your energy for creative or transformative projects; if you want information and connections but not distraction; if you want less despair, less anxiety and more world-changing action, start here.’ —Jane Rawson, author of From the Wreck and A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists

‘The book we all need to read now. With wonderful precision, passion and artfulness, Odell finds the language to meet this cultural moment. [This is] a joyful manifesto about resistance that is also an eccentric and practical handbook on how to reclaim your colonised and monetised attention.’—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
This book is currently unavailable
310 printed pages
Original publication


    Лиза Наливайкоshared an impression4 months ago
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    Леночкаhas quoted2 years ago
    As I disengaged the map of my attention from the destructive news cycle and rhetoric of productivity, I began to build another one based on that of the more-than-human community, simply through patterns of noticing. At first this meant choosing certain things to look at; I also pored over guides and used the California Academy of Science’s app, iNaturalist, to identify species of plants I had walked right by my entire life. As a result, more and more actors appeared in my reality: after birds, there were trees, then different kinds of trees, then the bugs that lived in them. I began to notice animal communities, plant communities, animal-plant communities; mountain ranges, fault lines, watersheds. It was a familiar feeling of disorientation, realized in a different arena. Once again, I was met with the uncanny knowledge that these had all been here before, yet they had been invisible to me in previous renderings of my reality.
    Majo Sandovalhas quotedlast year
    we could just relax and look up at the trees
    Majo Sandovalhas quotedlast year
    Stupid fools are those who are never satisfied with what they possess, but only lament what they cannot have

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