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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  39,647 ratings  ·  4,834 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Melville House
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Courtney Less of a "need to read" in a how-to sense, and more of a reminder to inhabit your physical reality and take a look around yourself more often. Good r…moreLess of a "need to read" in a how-to sense, and more of a reminder to inhabit your physical reality and take a look around yourself more often. Good read.(less)
Crystal Non-fiction. I think the author describes it as "an essay".…moreNon-fiction. I think the author describes it as "an essay".(less)

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 ·  39,647 ratings  ·  4,834 reviews

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Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Andrew Sampson
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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While reading this book, I kept thinking about this article I read once while crammed onto the packed and sweaty train. In one of many social media influencer scandals, a raw vegan lifestyle influencer was coming under fire because she was caught eating a meat dish while out at a restaurant with friends. Needless to say, it was the internet and people were MAD. And yes, you might say that she had every right to eat that meat-- it is her
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a strange, meandering, prone-to-tangents, quirky book but I really enjoyed it. I think a lot of people would feel that it was too meandering but as an audiobook I liked hearing Odell's thoughts on how the attention economy and hustle culture is affecting our lives! ...more
Nov 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
Woman discovers trees and then shares the experience in a language that the rest of us use to write grant proposals.
May 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Tara Schoenherr
Sep 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Odell has some interesting points but good lord does it seem like she would be exhausting to talk to at a party
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
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
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
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 ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Felicia Caro
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: learning, snoot
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, ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
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.
Jul 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy-essay
There are more ideas in these essays than in dozens of books I've read in the last year or two. I'm generally not big on non-fiction, but every once in a while you get hold of a book about ideas which seems to complete the sentences which other books have started and yet didn't really tear into. The economy aspect of the attention economy--late stage capitalism and the 24/7 demands of the gig system, the rise and fall of unionization and collective action, the hairs-breadth tenuousness of econom ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Diane S ☔
Feb 11, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: nf2022
3.5 8 hours for work, 8 hours to rest and 8 hours to do as you will, was the rallying cry of the labor movement in the 1920s. Now, however with the advent of cell phones and internet, this no look over applies. We are always on, reachable and for many jobs, able to work anywhere. There is no longer a strict division between work and play. This book takes us through how much we are giving up by becoming slaves to technology. The author sits in the Rose garden in Oakland and takes to bird watching ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Livingston
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Elise Cripe
May 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
this is dense and I am not sure I would recommend it to everyone. but — there are so many parts I will continue to think about that I have to give it a 5.

as many have mentioned, it’s NOT a how-to book or a “how to quit facebook manual.”

ideas I connected well with:

“we need distance and time [away from social media] to be functional enough to do or think anything meaningful at all.”

“I am personally unsatisfied with untrained attention, which flickers from one new thing to the next, not only becaus
Rachel Renbarger
Jun 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
Wow I'm so glad this book is over. My main problem is that she's not a writer. She's an artist. She thinks that a long-winded narration of every park she's been in, every bird she's seen, and every time she didn't have her phone in her hand is worth describing. Her thesis- if I'm being generous- is that people should connect with nature and people (outside of social media). This is not a novel idea nor is it interesting.

What makes it worse is that she only superficially acknowledges her privile
Nada Elshabrawy
it exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be a lame self-help book. but it wasn't! ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fin-2019, cultural
I am not clever enough to appreciate this book. Odell would occasionally write something spot-on and worthwhile but mainly I found the book long-winded and pretentious.

The gist of the book is this - people need to step back and pause and think about how they are communicating online. They need to learn to pull back & experience solitude and silence so they can deeply ponder what they think instead of automatically responding to what tech designers want them to respond to. "To do nothing is to h
"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
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
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380 likes · 78 comments
“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.” 71 likes
“What if we spent less time shouting into the void and being washed over with shouting in return-and more time talking in rooms to those for whom our words are intended? If we have only so much attention to give, and only so much time on this earth, we might want to think about reinfusing our attention and our communication with the intention that both deserve.” 44 likes
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