As media turned social, control over attention flows shifted to opaque, self-regulating algorithms. Knowledge seems to have become simultaneously broader and more superficial, more specific and more manipulative, increasingly fake and deeper. This talk looks at modes of attention that allow individuals to strive and survive in a world saturated with trash and erudition.
“When our media fill the air with trashy breaking updates,” writes the American novelist and critic Joshua Cohen, “when our elected officials lie, what they’re doing is creating a distraction, so as to command our attention for their profit, or to steer our scrutiny away from the more dire of their crimes.” In the age of social media, the liberal idea of a public sphere where news is distributed responsibly, facts are established with consideration, and interpretations are discussed with great care seems more hopeless than ever. The political consequences of this development have been widely discussed. But how do individuals cope with the structural changes that algorithmic communication has wrought on and in their lives? Which modes of attention allow them to keep track of themselves and to build traction vis-à-vis others? Discussing different varieties of extreme focus, this talk argues that behaviors formerly regarded as “abnormal” and “pathological” may be the only remaining way to participate in public life.
Tobias Haberkorn studied literature and philosophy in Paris and Berlin. He earned a Ph.D. with a study on the “too much” as a cognitive and poetological category in modern European narrative. He was a culture editor at Zeit Online and has translated essays and plays by Didier Eribon, Alain Badiou, and Ryan Trecartin into German. Currently he is IFK_Research Fellow.