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Jenny Odell and the art of attention

The artist and author talks to Ezra Klein about overstimulation and the difference between productivity and creativity.

Jenny Odell

“For some, there may be a kind of engineer’s satisfaction in the streamlining and networking of our entire lived experience,” writes Jenny Odell. “And yet a certain nervous feeling, of being overstimulated and unable to sustain a train of thought, lingers.”

Odell is the author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. And she’s a visual artist who has taught digital and physical design at Stanford since 2013, as well as done residencies at Facebook, San Francisco Recology, and the Internet Archive.

All of which is to say she’s the perfect person to talk to about creativity and attention in a world designed to flatten both. In this conversation, Jenny and I discuss the difference between productivity and creativity, how artists orchestrate attention, the ideologies we use to value our time, what it means to do nothing, restoring context to our lives and words, why “groundedness requires actual ground,” lucid dreaming, the joys of bird watching, my difficulty appreciating conceptual art, her difficulty with meditation, and much more.

Listen to the full interview and subscribe to The Ezra Klein Show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts:

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