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Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in…

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age

by Sven Birkerts

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"Now, Birkerts offers a follow-up [to The Gutenberg Elegies], Changing the Subject, a finely wrought and well-titled companion volume that fears the same dreadful end, but tacks from literature to consciousness, knowledge, data, and information."

"But what Birkerts writes about reading in general — that plots don’t matter, that to read is to be neuroplastically impressed by an "author’s language world" — establishes why Changing the Subject is a must-read."

"To say, for example that Changing the Subject is a collection of essays that includes riffs on Jeopardy!, GPS devices, Seamus Heaney, literary envy, and the unexpected joys of stationary bicycles is to say something that is true — but it is also to be guilty of what the book warns against, reducing an experience to contextless data points."
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"In 1994, Sven Birkerts published The Gutenberg elegies, his celebrated rallying cry to resist the oncoming digital advances, especially those that might affect the way we read literature and experience art. Over the next two decades of rampant change, Birkerts has reluctantly allowed a degree of everyday digital technology into his life... In Changing the subject, he examines the changes that he has observed in himself and others-- the distraction induced by reading on the screen; the loss of personal agency through reliance on GPS and one-stop information resources; an increasing acceptance of "hive" behaviors. 'An unprecedented shift is underway," he argues, and "this transformation is dramatically accelerated and more psychologically formative than any previous technological innovation.' He finds solace in engagement with art, particularly literature, and contemplates the countering energies available to us through acts of sustained attention, even as he worries that our increasingly mediated existences are a threat to creativity."--Page 4 of cover.… (more)

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