“… in media-rich human-built environments, my capacity to direct my attention in keeping with my purposes is often at odds with features of the environment that want to command my attention in keeping with purposes that are not my own. It is the difference between feeling challenged to rise to an occasion that ultimately yields an experience of competence and satisfaction, and feeling assaulted by an environment explicitly designed to thwart and exploit me.
Attention and attending are etymologically related to the Latin word attendere, which suggested among other things the idea of “stretching toward” something. I like this way of thinking about attention, not as a possession in limited supply, theoretically quantifiable, and ready to be exploited, but rather as a capacity to actively engage the world—to stretch ourselves toward it, to reach for it, to care for it, indeed, to tend it.
Right now, I’m inclined to put it this way: our dominant technologies excel at exploiting our attention while simultaneously eroding our capacity to attend to the world.”L.M. Sacasas, The Convivial Society, ‘Attending to the World’
A few days ago Harper Collins published an anthology of The Doors frontman Jim Morrison’s writing. The bulk of this near 600 page tome of poetry, lyrics, transcripts and more comes from the 28 (now privately held) notebooks Jim left behind after his death. Imagine if Jim instead saved his work on a computer and no one could access it because they didn’t know the password or the hard drive crashed. Paper can burn but it can’t crash.
Some time ago two universities in Texas, Texas State and Uni of Texas at Austin, acquired the papers of my two favourite novelists Cormac McCarthy and Don DeLillo. McCarthy’s papers amount to 96 boxes and DeLillo’s 157 boxes. I was curious how either man was convinced to part with their work but then I thought if a university asked me if they could collect my work for preservation and research I would probably oblige. Maybe they would take better care of those papers and notebooks than me?
So what kind of trail am I leaving? I backup my work on clouds but how secure are they? I also think perhaps the more my work stays in the disembodied realm of a computer the more, in a sense, the trail becomes lost to me.
Next time I’ll think twice before I feed the paper shredder.