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Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age Hardcover – June 1, 2008


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Frequently Bought Together

Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age + The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) + The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
Price for all three: $41.16

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591026237
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591026235
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this richly detailed and passionately argued book, Jackson (What's Happening to Home?) warns that modern society's inability to focus heralds an impending Dark Age—an era historically characterized by the decline of a civilization amid abundance and technological advancement. 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. The author provides a lively historical survey of attention, drawing upon philosophy, the impact of scientific innovations and her own experiences to investigate the possible genetic and psychological roots of distraction. While Jackson cites modern virtual life (the social network Facebook and online interactive game Second Life), her research is largely mired in the previous century, and she draws weak parallels between romance via telegraph and online dating, and supernatural spiritualism and a newfound desire to reconnect. Despite the detours (a cultural history of the fork?), 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. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Maggie Jackson is one of the most original and perceptive journalists writing about the challenges of modern life. In Distracted, she explores our hectic, multi-tasking world. She shows that while digital technology fills our lives with information and entertainment, it is far too often at the expense of human contact and thoughtful reflection. This book will make you slow down and think." -- Senator Amy Klobuchar

"Maggie Jackson's fascinating book on America's collective attention deficit disorder is a wake-up call to all of us to take back our lives, turn off the technology, and focus on paying attention to what makes us human and fulfilled." -- Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of America the Principled and Confidence.

"This is an important book. I found it to be a harrowing documentation of our modern world's descent into fragmentation, self alienation, and emptiness -- brought on, to a large extent, by communication technologies that distract us, dislocate us, and destroy our inner lives. Others have commented on these issues, but I have never seen them gathered together and documented as completely as Maggie Jackson has done." -- Alan Lightman, author of the bestselling Einstein's Dreams and National Book Award finalist The Diagnosis and MIT professor

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Customer Reviews

Jackson's book is not without its merits.
David D. Metcalf
When you read her book, which is the result of intense research, you will probably also agree.
M. L Lamendola
I got I'd say a little less than halfway through it before I just retired the thing.
Donna C

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

198 of 208 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on June 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A core concept of the martial arts is focus. That's where you get your power from ("your chi is concentrated"). The laser, which we use to cut through the hardest of steel, is nothing more than focused light. Any endeavor that requires brainpower, from sports to engineering, requires the ability to tune out everything except the task at hand. The ability to focus is a learned skill, and most people aren't learning it. In today's video and sound bite world, in fact, massive numbers of people are unlearning it.

Why does the stupidity epidemic continue to spread, despite its horrible cost? One answer may simply be that people are too distracted to pay attention. Consequently, they are not fully engaging their brains and focusing on what they are reading, saying, seeing, or hearing. This is a real problem in, for example, the task of driving an automobile. All of us can spot the "cell phone driver" from a distance, and there's a reason why.

It's the same reason this country has a shortage of qualified engineers, a shortage of senior project managers (average age now for the SMs in the construction industry is north of sixty), and such widespread ignorance of basic science, geography, and other subjects that require study. It's why only about half of voting-age Americans can correctly identify the three branches of the federal government.

When people are chronically distracted, something is wrong with their ability, desire, or discipline to filter out nonessential things and focus on what matters or what really has value. The result is a watered down life experience and a weakened intellect.

The effect is so pronounced and ubiquitous that, Jackson asserts, we as a society are poised on the edge of a coming dark time.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on June 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is little doubt that over the past few decades, particularly during what has been referred to as "the computer age," the world of intellectual activity has substantially changed. So-called "multitasking" has become common. "Sound-bites" provide many people with all the news they get. Rapid-moving video games provide many with most of the entertainment they experience. The technology of "virtual" reality is becoming so "real" it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what is "actually real" from what is "virtually real." Add to all this the reports that attention deficit symdrome (ADD) and hyperactive behavior among the young are growing problems in our fast-moving society, and one might be tempted to conclude that we are, in fact, "distracted" to the point where the erosion of attention will result in a soon-to-occur "dark age."

This latter point, of course, is a paraphrase of the title of Maggie Jackson's latest book "Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age." The major problem we face now, Jackson seems to say, is INATTENTION; that is, we are no longer engaging in such activities as reflection, searching for deeper meanings, taking time to relax and participate in traditionally intimate conversations, getting to know people in a personable way, taking the time to discern the really important from the merely transitory, and so on. We as a society and as individuals are, in other words, not paying ATTENTION. At least to the things we ought to be paying proper attention to.
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79 of 92 people found the following review helpful By David D. Metcalf on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In a culture in which Attention Deficit Disorder seems endemic, the health and integrity of American communities appears waning, and individuals seem incapable of managing real and meaningful relationships and communications, Maggie Jackson's Distracted tackles a fascinating and important topic. However, while Jackson addresses these issues, her investigation wanders, her thesis remains unproven, and both reader and writer ultimately end up 'distracted' from answering the key questions the book proposes.

Jackson's book is not without its merits. She examines the crucial issue of attentional capacity and growth in children, and how electronic stimuli fracture attention and foster an 'attention deficit' society. She effectively discusses America's simultaneity - the idea that internet connectivity, technology, and travel, have rendered people both 'everywhere and nowhere.' Decrying this neo-nomadic culture, she also asserts - with convincing narratives - that simultaneity and attentional distraction tends toward the dissolution of American families and relationships.

However, "Distracted" also delves into topics that fail to demonstrably progress its thesis. Jackson discusses individual people and problems which only bear tangential importance to the implications of a 'distracted' society. The virtual world's treatment of death, the dangerous preference of information by an unreliable internet rather than books, and a curious digression on the eating habits of an overworking population, are but a few topics that waste the reader's time. Here and elsewhere, Jackson tries to weave a quilt with discordant fabrics and patterns, and the result is a disjointed and scattered product.
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