Do you text during family dinners or read e-mails during meetings? Does your spouse learn about your day from Facebook? Do you get news about the world by scanning online headlines while also doing something else?
Welcome to the land of distraction. Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion, fragmentation, and detachment. Our attention is scattered among the beeps and pings of a push-button world. We are less and less able to pause, reflect, and deeply connect.
In Distracted, journalist Maggie Jackson ponders our increasingly cyber-centric world and fears we're entering a dark age of interruption that will render us unable to think critically, work creatively, or cultivate meaningful relationships. Jackson warns of what can happen when we lose our ability to sustain focus and erode our capacity for deep attention - the building blocks of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress. The implications for a healthy society are stark. Societal ADD will adversely affect parenting, marriages, personal safety, education, and even democracy. And yet we can recover our powers of focus through a renaissance of attention. 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.
In her sweeping quest to unravel the nature of attention and detail its losses, Jackson offers us a compelling wake-up call, an adventure story, and reasons for hope. Put down your smart phone and prepare for an eye-opening journey. We can and must learn to focus attention in this Twitter culture.
©2009 Maggie Jackson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"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....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." (Publishers Weekly)
Ms. Jackson begins with some bold and startling claims, shows us a brief glimpse of some intellectual gem level observations, then gets lost in a series of meandering narratives, only a few of which seem to be connected to her original thesis. Reads too much like a collection of magazine articles lacking structure overall. The vocal narration, while professional and well produced, is for this listener far too "chirpy". Its a mismatch of big, profound thesis against a voice much better suited to much lighter subjects. I found this jarring and almost undermining the seriousness of the content.
The author has done her homework. She presents many references worthy of tracking down, but for me it was too broad and over-written. Too many topics, too many references, and too much overly descriptive language made it a taxing example of overchievement.
I'm not sure which was worse: the frequent mispronunciations and automated telephone operator voice of the narrator or the intellectually vapid contentions of the author. It sounds like a mediocre master's thesis, and the author fails to make a strong case for this work's conceit--that the distractions of modern technological life are leading to a new "dark age." While there's no enlightenment to be found here, the book would likely serve as a sleep aid to those who don't respond to strong sedatives.
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