Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age / Edition 1

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How did we get to the point where we keep one eye on our Blackberry and one eye on our spouse-in bed? We can contact millions of people worldwide, so why is it hard to schedule a simple family dinner together? What can we do about it?

How did we get to the point where we "tweet" on vacation, text during family dinners, read e-mails during meetings and classes, and learn about our spouse's day from Facebook? What can we do to reclaim our attention?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

These two thoughtful, well-written books both decry the sorry state of literacy in this country and its myriad implications. Bauerlein (English, Emory Univ.), former director of research and analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, is no stranger to the evidence of the decline of reading in America and its cultural consequences in our society. He focuses on the "new attitude, this brazen disregard of...books and reading" among young people. Journalist Jackson is more inclusive in her devastating account of how all of us-not just students-have lost the capacity to pay sustained attention to anything longer than a PowerPoint presentation, claiming that she sees "stunning similarities between past dark ages and our own era." Much of Bauerlein's book is reminiscent of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, and readers will probably take similar issue with some of Bauerlein's elitist pretensions (e.g., that kids read Harry Potter because other kids read it, not because they like it). These are well-informed and well-argued books, however, and both are highly recommended for all libraries.
—Ellen Gilbert

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591026235
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 694,539
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet 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, What’s Happening to Home? Balancing Work, Life and Refuge in the Information Age, examined the loss of home as a refuge.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 9

Introduction 11

Part I Lengthening Shadows: Exploring Our Landscape of Distraction

Chapter 1 Wired Love ca. 1880-Tracing the Roots of an Attention-Deficient Culture 29

Chapter 2 Focus-E-mailing the Dead and Other Forays into Virtual Living 45

Chapter 3 Judgment-Of Molly's Gaze and Taylor's Watch: Why More Is Less in a Split-Screen World 71

Chapter 4 Awareness-Portable Clocks and Little Black Boxes: The Sticking Point of Mobility 97

Part II Deepening Twilight: Pursuing The Narrowing Path

Chapter 5 Focus-Invisible Tethers: The Delicate Art of Surveillance-Based Love 127

Chapter 6 Judgment-Book and Word on the "Edge of Chaos" 153

Chapter 7 Awareness-The Post-Human Age: A Battle for Our Attention 183

Part III Dark Times ... Or Renaissance of Attention?

Chapter 8 McThinking and the Future of the Past 213

Chapter 9 The Gift of Attention-A Renaissance at Hand 237

Acknowledgments 267

Endnotes 269

Index 311

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