Tung-Hui Hu – Digital Lethargy, Dispatches from an Age of Disconnection


The MIT Press, ISBN 978-0262047111, English, 287 pages, 2022, USA

Digital capitalism and its management of myriad networks is now so embedded in our daily experience of space and time that we barely remember how it was before this was the case. After “A Prehistory of the Cloud”, where he analysed the structure of remote and shared storage and the created digital subjective, in this new work, Hu reclaims the right to disconnect and pause our screen-based labour. The “digital lethargy” that we experience after induced burnout and exhaustion might become an attitude to resist hyperactivity under digital capitalism, halting an “always-on” temporality. This lethargy establishes a politically “dead time”, which becomes a form of survival and it is different from complete passivity, closer instead to disengagement. Hu analyses racism towards microworkers undertaking repetitive digital labour in the Global South, exploring how, for the other, “interaction is the source of agency”. The author also analyses a few artworks that combine the performance of human relationships with a deep questioning of universal gestures, such as Cory Arcangel’s ”Self Playing Nintendo 64 NBA Courtside 2” or Yoshua Okón’s “Canned Laughter”. It is an outstanding analysis of the system, coupled to a call to interrupt the perennial workflow for a few minutes and re-appropriate the necessary time and space for reflection.