Madeleine Bunting, formerly an associate editor and columnist at The Guardian, is the author of four books, including The Plot: A Biography of an English Acre (2009) and, most recently, Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey (2016). (March 2018)
Attention is a limited resource: to pay attention to one thing requires us to withdraw it from others. But in today’s pervasive digital culture, technologies are transforming our patterns of attention, pursuing “those slivers of our unharvested awareness,” as Tim Wu puts it. Digital technology has thus provided consumer capitalism with its most powerful tools yet. Given current political anxieties about social mobility and inequality, how do we foster this most crucial and basic skill: sustaining attention?