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Re: <nettime> Aesthetics of Dispersed Attention: Interview
Margaret Morse on Tue, 24 Sep 2013 23:55:17 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Aesthetics of Dispersed Attention: Interview

Geert, thanks for sharing news of Petra Loeffler's forthcoming
book with us. Her argument against the theoretical assumption that
distraction or dispersion of attention is a negative per se is well

In Geert's introduction:

> Within this worrying spread of postmodern deceases, who would talk
> about the healing effects of daydreaming? Petra Loeffler does, and
> she refers to Michel de Montaigne, who, already many centuries ago,
> recommended diversion as a comfort against suffering of the souls.
> Why can't we acknowledge the distribution of attention as an art
> form, a gift, in fact a high skill?

 I do have trouble with the terms such as distraction and dispersed
attention that don't seem to be logically equivalent. Also,
distraction is opposed to widely differing concepts other than
concentration in the course of the interview. Loeffler's conclusion of
the interview anticipates "intensified distraction" (a contradiction
in terms) with revolutionary potential akin to art:

> PL: .... I was surprised reading in Dialectics of Enlightment that,
> according to Adorno and Horkheimer, a total excess of distraction
> comes, in its extremity, close to art. This thought, it occurs to
> me, resonates Siegfried Kracauer's utopia of distraction of the
> 1920s dealing with modern mass media, especially cinema.

> In this passage of their book, Adorno and Horkheimer are saying, and
> that is revolutionary for me, nothing less than that an accumulation
> and intensification of distraction is able to fulfil the task of
> negation that was originally dedicated to art, because it alters the
> state of the subject in the world completely. With this thought in
> mind it would be really funny and, at the end much less elitist, to
> speculate about what Adorno would say of the Internet.

I expect I'll find the terms of argument less confusing in the
book; nonetheless, I think of art as a cultural form requiring
concentration or attention; it is distraction only in the sense that
it might oppose what is expected from us. In my essay on "The Ontology
of Everyday Distraction: the Freeway, the Mall and Television" I
discuss the semifictional states of mind or zoning out induced by
the built environment and mass media. I wonder if the internet (if
it can be considered one thing) is just a part of this complex, vast
and pervasive interconnection and circulation of day dreams and

I have also written an essay on the concept of "immersion" as a       
metaphor. Loeffler "would not signify distraction as a metaphor. It   
is in fact a concrete phase of the body, a state of the mind. It      
is real." I would say that distraction is ALSO a metaphor that is     
strongly related to social condition and state of mind. Concepts      
and moral attitudes are also related to historial and social          
specificities: could the attitudes of Krakauer and the Frankfurt      
School toward distraction be understood without the framework of the  
struggle against fascism and its use of fascination (as a form of     
distraction? immersion?) to "make [the dream] real".                  

Food for thought.  Thanks again! 

Margaret Morse

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