October 14, 2013 § 1 Comment

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“Philosophy”, writes one of the LRB’s correspondents, responding to Rebecca Solnit’s piece on Silicon Valley & distraction, “requires a capacity for sustained attention: slow reading, slow writing and slow thinking.”* Slowness becomes a matter of self-care, a conscious retreat from online life for periods – to rest, to holiday in other temporalities & their particular qualities before, inevitably, returning. You go out for the day & leave the laptop at home, even though you have work to do (when do you not have work?) I cannot be bothered to replace my ageing Samsung w/ a smartphone (my last phone, an ancient brick of a Nokia, had to be killed off by accidentally falling down a toilet), nor any of the other distributed entities of the Internet of Things, but partly also b/c I know it will cut off one more partial escape route. The very designation of “self-care” reveals the problem: any component of ‘slow life’ cannot be life itself, but only a measure of damage control against what life inflicts under late capitalism, fragments of IRL peeking out between the bounds of networked life. The class implication is clear: space, time & a certain practical respite must be literally bought; only certain sorts of ‘slow’ activities, designated by the hot-or-not universal barometers of cultural capital, can be consciously taken on (‘slow’ food, artisan gin, knitting, beekeeping). Slowness, unsupported by the ‘good health’ of class society, has historically killed & continues to kill: the eternal return of unemployment, days in the pub waiting for the hour hand to tick, rural backwater deaths, narcotic hazes, darkness-at-noon, ruin, exile, repression (think of the line from Noodles, the ghetto kid made good & fallen: “What you been doing for the last 35 years?” “Been going to bed early.”)

*The possibilities of “thinking in distraction” investigated by Walter Benjamin remain under-hymned (I seem to come up w/ my best thoughts while watching TV drunk), although it is very necessary to point out the qualitative difference between the temporality of cinema, or even mid-century TV, & the constant electro-shock agitation of web 2.0

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