Long, long ago, in 2019, artist Jenny Odell published the book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, “a field guide to doing nothing as an act of political resistance” and an argument for reclaiming the most valuable thing we have: our attention. It became a New York Times bestseller and even landed on Barack Obama’s personal list of favorite books from the year.
Since then, the U.S. has experienced a global pandemic that has shifted many Americans’ social and professional lives almost entirely online and upended a lot of our accepted ideas about time, work, care, and community—all ideas taken up in the book.
Today on the show, guest host Richelle Wilson spends the hour with Jenny Odell reflecting on the ideas outlined in How to Do Nothing and the new resonances it has for our current moment, after nearly a year of pandemic life when “doing nothing” is both a lived reality of quarantine for some and a political act of refusal to accept capitalist narratives of productivity during this moment of profound social change.
Jenny Odell is a multi-disciplinary artist, teacher, and writer based in Oakland, California whose work focuses on acts of observation, attention, and perception. She is a studio art teacher at Stanford University and the author of the New York Times–bestselling book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (Melville House, 2019), recently released in paperback.