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The Liberal Studies department at the New School for Social Research and the Culture & Media Department at Eugene Lang College are pleased to jointly present "Appetite for Distraction: Social Media and Today's Attention-Economy," an evening lecture by Chair and faculty member Dominic Pettman, which also marks the publication his forthcoming book Infinite Distraction (Polity Press, 2016).
It is often argued that contemporary media homogenize our thoughts and actions, without us being fully aware of the restrictions they impose. But what if the problem is not that we are all synchronized to the same motions or moments, but rather dispersed into countless different emotional micro-experiences? What if the effect of so-called social media is to calibrate the interactive spectacle so that we never fully feel the same way as other potential allies at the same time? While one person is fuming about economic injustice or climate change denial, another is giggling at a cute cat video. And, two hours late, vice versa. The nebulous indignation which constitutes the very fuel of true social change can be redirected safely around the network, avoiding any dangerous surges of radical activity.
Infinite Distraction examines the deliberate deployment of what Pettman calls hypermodulation, as a key strategy encoded into the contemporary media environment. His account challenges the various narratives that portray social media as a sinister space of synchronized attention, in which we are busily clicking ourselves to death. This critical reflection on the unprecedented power of the Internet requires us to rethink the potential for infinite distraction that our latest technologies now allow.
A Q&A will follow the lecture and refreshments will be on hand.
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