Montana Svoboda A
September 23, 2016
Matthew Crawford’s assertion is that attention, specifically the near lack of it, in today’s society is not an individual, generational or even technological problem as is so commonly argued but that it is a cultural and continually political issue. The issue hasn’t simply progressed in deterministic pattern from flint and steel to electric stove, it has been pushed and pushed quite literally into our faces with the understanding that it will lead to profit. Attention is a finite resource, a person only has so much of it and can only direct it to a limited amount of objects in a given time. Knowing this, empty space-an expanse of wall in an airport, a bench anywhere to the smallest items like the back of a report card (as Crawford states on page 38) are disappearing and being replaced with bright, vivid scenes designed to capture a person’s attention, to change their thought process from the day’s plans to buying a tube of lipstick. Emptiness, silence is becoming a luxury, only available to the higher class. It is in this void where a person’s mind can unwind, is allowed to digest and for a minute, think and articulate the happenings of the world. As this gets taken away, given to those whose wallets are wide corporations in essence are gaining a bigger foothold on the population’s imagination, on their thoughts. The more they infiltrate ambient space, the more they guide where the mind wanders, as Crawford says “Without the ability to direct our attention where we will, we become more receptive to those who would direct our attention where they will”. Meaning, we become what they want us to. This leads into the loss of individuality, using Crawford’s example page 45, opposed to reading an umpteen number of books, he is tuned into, along with “4.6 million of my closest friends” to a perfectly executed distraction, a considerably meager example of loss but one that shows just how easily we fall into one of man specifically designed single-file line.
Crawford masterfully draws the audience into the article with an anecdote about flying to Chicago. The event becomes not only the background for his proclamation but is transformed into a brilliant analogy about the increasing domination of our attention by special interests groups. Crawford’s use of these light-hearted anecdotes such as going through airport security and even using an article from The Onion is an excellent way of keeping the reader interested and focused, while providing support for the overall point. Relying on a plethora of rhetorical tactics the argument flows naturally without any part becoming obtuse or blatant. Tone is a big factor here, written with a certain whimsical keenness which works alongside the analogies of everyday strife at the airport and elsewhere help create a relatable, almost personal atmosphere as if the reader is a direct friend of his. Transitioning smoothly into an emotional story with such subtly it’s easy to not realize they’re present until a deep breath is exhaled, until a thought is taken to process. A flow of these emotions is created to narrate the argument, engaging the reader and pulling them in. The hassle of going through airport security is one that most people have directly experienced with the rest being able to relate in some way or the other. The stress of having so many worries run rampant attention occasionally darting to the pretty clothing ad or hot dog stand, hungry? Is a situation felt by far too many, a situation which ignites a peculiar ferocity within a person. Making the point the one’s attention is a finite resource actively being stolen by corporate incites a feeling worry, people are people but the individual is always more concerned and likely to act if their personal self is the one being actively hunted. Taking it to a microscopic level, pointing the finger at one, pointing out against all others that that one is the apple of someone’s malicious eye is how you get everyone to care. Crawford’s conclusion is that attention is a political issue involving everyone. His open use of nearly every weapon in the rhetorical arsenal show that it indeed is.
In reading the article, analysing it from a variety of perspectives, the overall consensus is that Matthew Crawford does an excellent job of proposing and articulating his argument. Carefully picking through and inserting subtle allusion or small analogy, the actual logistics, the logos to create the initial facade for the claim that attention is a cultural problem not technological or generational as commonly discussed in the news is given to the reader without coming across as a boring facts. The ability to write about such a topic in such a way as it is while still keeping it at it’s core an academic paper proposing a critically thought out assertion is crucial. It’s this that allows the information to be readily, nearly eagerly, consumed as opposed to having the message drift from one year to the other into the cluttered space that has taken over. The context is dark, scary and borderline bleak in some aspects yet nothing is lost to desolation. Moving at a casual pace from hotel to security to inescapable desert alluding to the once valiant native spirit crushed by flashy billboards and dollar signs the void doesn’t swallow meaning or interest, merely explains it with the feeling of a children’s scary story. Success, is a synonym for this article.
The intro paragraph to Crawford’s commentary begins with a simple anecdote about buying groceries, he says “…between swiping m card, confirming the amount and entering my PIN, I was shown advertisements. The intervals themselves, which I had previously assumed were a mere artifact of the communication technology, now seemed to be something more deliberately calibrated.”. This sets up the rest of the article, a common experience everyone has witness when specifically pointed out allows the mind to think back not just on those brief seconds but on a myriad of other moments encompassing one’s life that may have been more cluttered than they initially seemed. Citing a satirical news report from The Onion is witty and informative to provide an idea of what is actually happening in the world. Obviously exaggerated (though not too far from reality), one can’t help but chuckle and nod their head at an excerpt from page 39 “ Marshall Platt, 34 was reportedly seconds away from letting go and enjoying himself when he was suddenly crushed by the full weight of work emails that still needed to be dealt with…an upcoming wedding he had yet to buy airfare for..”. That quote, along with the body from which it came provides a startling light voice to quite the dark picture, we as a people are always present elsewhere, preoccupied with the sum of responsibilities while simultaneously trying to fight off a never ending army of brightly colored advertisements who are forcing their way into our heads in attempt to effectively control our every thought. This battle humorously summed up while growing through airport security is spoken as “This fresh demand for vigilance, lest I lose my powerpoint slide show, feels like a straightforward conflict between me and L’Oreal” (Crawford 41). It’s this use that make the essay such a compelling and surprisingly read. Crawford poses a brilliant and well executed pondering which rivals as one of the best.