Finding An Antidote To The Attention Economy with Jenny Odell

Product Description
$ 1.99

MP3 Download

More and more of us spend enormous spans of our time captured, optimized, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily. We are caught in a dynamic where our value is determined by our productivity. In her book, Jenny Odell points out, “The convenience of limitless connectivity has neatly paved over the nuances of in-person conversation, cutting away so much information and context in the process. In an endless cycle where communication is stunted and time is money, there are a few moments to step away and fewer ways to find each other.” This deep dialogue explores the increasingly materialistic and pragmatic orientation of our age and how to reroute and deepen our attention and explore what is hijacking the ageless need for community, solitude, and conviviality. She also describes the attention economy, how it is co-opting our lives and how we can reclaim our lives from its pervasive and seductive sway. She says, “I realized that what I’m actually trying to escape is not politics, not other people, and it’s not like being in the world. What I’m trying to escape is the attention economy. I’m trying to escape this very specific cycle in which I am faced with a bunch of information that produces anxiety. That then drives me back to social media and the attention economy . . . I’m just a waterwheel for this and everyone is a waterwheel for this industry . . .It’s not necessarily an issue of disengaging all together, it’s disengaging from that and actually, ironically, engaging more with people around me, organizations around me, and things that that exist outside the attention economy.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Jenny Odell is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer based in Oakland, California who teaches at Stanford University. She has been an artist-in-residence at such places as the San Francisco dump, Facebook, the Internet Archive, and the San Francisco Planning Department. She has exhibited her art all over the world.

Jenny Odell is the author of:

 To learn more about the work of Jenny Odell go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue 

  • How her book is not a self-help treatise but more like wandering in a labyrinth of roses
  • What is the ancient Chuang Tzu story of usefulness and uselessness in the parable of the useless tree
  • What birdwatching teaches Odell
  • Why not all attention is the same: shallow, reactive, contemplative
  • How Odell expanded her “siloed hearing” after a live John Cage concert in San Francisco
  • What was Odell’s art instillation at the San Francisco Dump
  • What is the difference between a deep conversation and a two dimensional one
  • What does she mean when she describes “gated communities of our attention”
  • Why some of the giants of the tech world place restrictions on themselves and their children on how they use technology
  • Why it may be a privilege and a luxury to defend ourselves from being part of the attention economy
  • How Thomas Merton found a way to be present in the world while being removed from it, resistance in place
  • Exploring the other side of the story of a woman growing up in Moscow under communism and having to edit her very thoughts which is kneejerk reactions and tweeting without thinking
  • How the internet can be a diversion of energy into a sea of shouting
  • How creativity can be op-opted by capitalism
  • How termites built intricate mounds without an architect directing a plan

 Host: Justine Willis Toms        Interview Date: 8/30/2019        Program Number: 3689

Music Playlist 

From Album: Essential Tri Atma
Artist: Tri Atma

Opening Essay: Track 01 - Namaskar
Music Break 1: Track 06 - Microcosmos
Music Break 2: Track 03 – O Moena
Music Break 3: Track 07- Yummy Moon