The Age of Distraction: Reading, Writing, and Politics in a High-Speed Networked Economy

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9781412843065: The Age of Distraction: Reading, Writing, and Politics in a High-Speed Networked Economy
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Connections between time, technology, and the processes of reading and writing make clear the links between experiences of what appear to be quite different phenomena. Reading and writing have functioned together in a particular way to build the world as we have known it for three thousand years. These interacting processes have now been transformed at their core and are building a different world, one where certainties of the previous era are disappearing and being displaced by what the author sees as a chronic and pervasive mode of cognitive distraction.

Robert Hassan offers a perspective permeated by a sense of history, beginning with the invention of writing and the development of the skill of reading. Together with technological developments, these provide a unique view of the trajectory of modernity into late-modernity, and illustrate how the arc of progress has transformed. New modes of time, technology, and reading and writing are helping create a faster world where we know less about more—and forget what we know evermore quickly.

What is the “time” of a thought? Is it possible to measure thinking? Can we consider knowledge or information, or reading and writing, as having temporal “rhythms”? These are questions Hassan tries to answer. So unfamiliar are we to thinking in such terms that they sound impossible. To a significant degree, time, thinking, and many forms of knowledge are the fruits of subjective experience. We connect experiences at superficial levels, where people have different experiences that may be objectively the same, but our interpretations will always diverge in respect of the “reality” we confront. This intersection of philosophy and communication takes the reader into new realms of analysis.

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About the Author:

Robert Hassan is senior research fellow in the culture and communication department at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Empires of Speed, The Information Society, and The New Media Theory Reader. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Cultural Politics, World Futures, and Southern Review.

Review:

“Hassan draws ideas from Walter Ong, Marshal McLuhan, Frances Lyotard, and other highly respected postmodern and economic theorists... [T]he scholarship is expansive... [I]deas well worth contemplating.”

—C. E. O’Neill, Choice

“[A] fine survey on the politics of time and democracy in an electronic world.”

California Bookwatch

“[O]ne of the best books available on current issues in social time.”

—Mark Aultman, KronoScope

“Hassan's contemplations on distraction expose a chilling new social process: the political economy of time. The time of money, debt and circulation; the time of the factory, and now the time of information. Once knowledge was stuff you knew. Now it is an environment we inhabit—and are expected to pay rent on. Hassan knows we cannot go back to pre-feudal time: he is the first to propose a future-oriented politics of public time. A timely book indeed.”

 —Sean Cubitt, Winchester School of Art

“Hassan’s brilliant book explores the ways in which electronic instantaneity distracts us from reflection, reason, democracy—above all, writing. He argues for temporal sovereignty and a public Internet as alternatives to the commodified, shallow Internet-based culture of our fast capitalism. His learned jeremiad seeks to slow down our hasty, distracting world by empowering readers to become writers, hence public citizens.”

—Ben Agger, University of Texas at Arlington

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