On attention

I sat down last night to read a book (David Rothkopf's Superclass, if you must know) and realised, for all my endless reading of magazines and listening to audio I hadn't actually soaked in the pleasure of pure unadulterated reading of books for a while.

And then today I read Sam Anderson's piece in New York, "In Defense of Distraction", on attention and the poverty thereof in the modern world, what with Twittering and Facebook. Which coincided with my belated reading of the Obama interview in Newsweek and in particular the part about how he manages his time.

All of which made me wonder: having grown up very comfortable with distraction - reading while eating at dinner, that sort of thing - am I the sort of "digital native" Anderson talks about in the last page of his article, the person who can switch attention really well? Or is that really just fooling myself? I suppose it's a hard question to answer. I'd like to think I'm the former, but I have certainly appreciated lifehacking and the whole GTD idea - including just starting to use Texter, thanks to this week's David Pogue column - and I have benefited immensely from taking a much more focused approach to e-mails, so at some level I do feel some value in eliminating some kinds of mental clutter. And weaning myself off the need to answer the phone or SMSs immediately has saved a lot of time. Even if that just means more time to Twitter, I suppose, if I'm being facetious.

What I like, ultimately, in thinking about all this is that it isn't the kind of question that really is answered within one blog posting. Will have to keep thinking about it all. And reread Joyce and Proust.


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