Paying Attention: Philosophy and Literature as strong therapy for the Information Age

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This essay attempts a dissenting investigation into how a specific topic is framed today: attention. Working from the premise that a crudely economic grammar is pervasive in framing attention in contemporary information societies, it considers the case for framing attention differently. The essay’s aim is explicitly normative: it argues that the tendency to frame attention as “capital” or “resource” brings a correlative tendency to frame it as “bankrupt” or “deficient”, and that the capacity to frame attention differently has strongly therapeutic potential in the face of this. Part one examines the tendency of a crudely economic grammar of “paying attention” to lead to what David Foster Wallace pithily called “Total Noise.” Part two examines the political potential of gestures of silence in the midst of this. Part three charts the political and therapeutic potential of the grammar of attention as music, with reference to Wittgenstein’s later work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld Literature and Dissent
EditorsLorna Burns, Katie Muth
Place of PublicationAbingdon
ISBN (Electronic)9780203710302
ISBN (Print)9781138561861, 9781138561854
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2019


  • Philosophy of Technology
  • Literature
  • Attention


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