Jenny Odell – How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy


Melville House, ISBN-13: 978-1612197493, English, 256 pages, 2019, USA

This is a potentially subversive book. Affirming that we should take more time offline for nurturing our own thoughts (and so our own being) does not sound that new, but here it is so gracefully articulated in irresistible arguments. The whole paradigm about personal productivity and optimisation in order to live our best (online) life in contemporary society inexorably crumbles. Odell quotes artists, writers, philosophers, in a convincing argument that our current milieu, one overpopulated by both real and virtual objects, should be mostly emptied, giving room to what we can already access and entirely enjoy, with the natural environment at the forefront. Her key ‘refusal’ doesn’t become a vague utopian gesture, but stands as an attitude to cultivate, and infiltrate the public (and possibly political) discourse, as a very powerful agent of change. Odell is an artist, which informs her communication strategies quite delightfully. The complex puzzle of described nonconformist tactics is connected and reinforced with irony and wit, and her call for self co-opting our own attention, is one of the most effective antidotes to the current modus vivendi, which, sadly, prevents us from doing it. This can lead us to naturally disconnect from how “the platform is designed” (the platform of our economic reality). The potential subversiveness of this book is just waiting to be embraced.