Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age

Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age

by Maggie Jackson
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In this gripping exposé of our cyber-centric, attention-deficient life, journalist Maggie Jackson argues that 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.

Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a

…  See more details below

Overview

In this gripping exposé of our cyber-centric, attention-deficient life, journalist Maggie Jackson argues that 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.

Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion and detachment. With our attention scattered among the beeps and pings of a push-button world, we are less and less able to pause, reflect, and deeply connect.

In her sweeping quest to unravel the nature of attention and detail its losses, 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.

As the author shows, 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.

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.

Read More

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

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591027485
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
09/22/2009
Pages:
327
Sales rank:
700,481
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

Alan Lightman
"This is an important book. I found it to be a harrowing documentation of our modern world's descent into fragmentation, self alienation, and emptiness -- brought on, to a large extent, by communication technologies that distract us, dislocate us, and destroy our inner lives. Others have commented on these issues, but I have never seen them gathered together and documented as completely as Maggie Jackson has done."--(Alan Lightman, author of the bestselling Einstein's Dreams and National Book Award finalist The Diagnosis and MIT professor)
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
"Maggie Jackson's fascinating book on America's collective attention deficit disorder is a wake-up call to all of us to take back our lives, turn off the technology, and focus on paying attention to what makes us human and fulfilled."--(Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of America the Principled and Confidence.)
Senator Amy Klobuchar
"Maggie Jackson is one of the most original and perceptive journalists writing about the challenges of modern life. In Distracted, she explores our hectic, multi-tasking world. She shows that while digital technology fills our lives with information and entertainment, it is far too often at the expense of human contact and thoughtful reflection. This book will make you slow down and think."

Read More

Meet the Author

Maggie Jackson 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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >