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I struggle with time, how to manage it, when to read all the books and piles of paper that surround me, how to administrate the electronics, when to swim, when to be social, maintenance in general, the desire to cook for myself, and so on. It’s a serious problem for me. I experiment with strategies of efficient management, but they don’t seem to work, either because they don’t work or my commitment wanes. It is so hard to focus, and who hasn’t self-diagnosed as having a deficit of attention?

Today, from the top of one pile, I read Franco Berardi’s “Cognitarian Subjectivation,” which aptly describes what I think is probably a pretty common experience, this sense of failure at not being able to deal with the basic upkeep of life and the processing of so much information. Semiocapital, the combinatory frame that sustains an information-based economy, “puts neuro-psychic energies to work, submitting them to mechanistic speed, compelling cognitive activity to follow the rhythm of networked productivity. As as result, the emotional sphere linked with cognition is stressed to its limit. Cyberspace overloads cybertime, because cyberspace is an unbounded sphere whose speed can accelerate without limits, while cybertime (the organic time of attention, memory, imagination) cannot be sped up beyond a certain point–or it cracks. And it actually is cracking, collapsing under the stress of hyper-productivity. An epidemic of panic and depression is now spreading throughout the circuits of the social brian.” (Interestingly, Berardi later also links a de-activation of empathy to this alienation.)

Are you panicked? Are you depressed? How do you manage all the myriad demands for your close attention?

I recently read Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be? and the novel reminded me of the proposition that boredom is the breeding ground of creativity. If Heti’s right, how are we to manage creative reactions to the world when we’re being cognitively electrocuted all the time? As Berardi puts it, “sensuality is slow…as info-workers are exposed to a growing mass of stimuli that cannot be dealt with according to the intensive modalities of pleasure and knowledge, acceleration leads to an impoverishment of experience.”

I am panicked. I am depressed. I’d rather luxuriate in the sensual slowness of contemplation, and yet how to get there from here?

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  1. From Laura U. Marks’s Enfoldment and Infinity: “Contemporary visual culture is really information culture, for though we in the postindustrial world are using our eyes more than ever before, it is not to look at pictures but to read information. All around us computer screens, mobile phones and other hand-held devices, the television screen subdivided into flows of information, signage and advertising, medical imaging devices, radio, and the audio alerts that fill the urban soundscape demand cognitive attention as information to be processed, not sensuous material to be experienced [2-3].”

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