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The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age

by Maggie Jackson

      Far from being your average popular culture look at the masses, Distracted presents a complex diatribe on contemporary communication. The premise of Distracted is that we are all part of a culture characterized by interaction resembling widespread attention deficit disorder as we rely on emails, text messaging, sound bites and other forms of electronic communication. In the process of "connecting" we deny authentic relationships which are the essence of face-to-face human connection. Through this process of disconnection as we "lose the boundaries of space and time" we enter a type of Dark Age.

Memorable vignettes such as Wired Love, a story between two telegraphers who stumble upon a romance over the wires, and stories of web tributes to the dead, pepper the book along with other more shocking examples of pseudo-relationship. Take for instance Jeremy Bentham, a political philosopher who died in 1832. His preserved skeleton, topped by a wax head and dressed in his own frock coat, ruffled shirt, and wide-brimmed hat, resides in perpetuity in the main building of University College eerie testimony to his faith in the power of permanent visibility in all realms. He is now an "auto-icon," the term coined for a "man who is his own image, preserved for the benefit of posterity." ...Bentham is the father of our surveillance society...keeping people under watch is an ingenious way to regulate them. (p. 1217-128)

Such oddities provide a unique basis for the author's insights as she juxtaposes history with technological age-based commentary.

If you favor a "one minute", easily digestible read you can walk away from with a grocery list of ideas to apply to your own life, prepare to be frustrated and confused when reading Distraction. This study of attention requires every ounce of concentration you have, as well as forcing you to draw your own conclusions. However, if you are in the mood for a serious look at how society is in decline amidst the greatest explosion of technological advance in the history of the world, you will not be disappointed. Distracted allows readers an in depth opportunity to languish in ruminating about the quality of our modern lives, challenging us to evaluate our very existence.

The Book

Prometheus Books
June 2008
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The Reviewer

Donna Ross
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Donna Satterlee Ross is the co-editor of That's Life with Autism: Tales And Tips for Families With Autism and is currently working on a new book about autism and humor.
© 2008