11 January 2022
Jeremy Deller’s piece, “Hello, today you have day off”, 2013.
Sometime around 2010, I found the perfect work routine. I would get up early, run, and shower. I’d leave the house and grab the Central Line from Shepherd’s Bush to Tottenham Court Road. On the way I’d get a coffee, which I’d drink while I travelled while reading or listening to music.
I’d be in the large, empty office that smelled of drab, sterile carpet and blank halogen lighting by 8:05am. I’d get my second cup of coffee and settle down to read the RSS feeds of around 130 websites1.
I learnt a lot, and the diversity and scope of what I read helped widen my understanding of the world - open it to new voices and perspectives and fields and approaches. It opened my eyes wide before a day of code and tech. It made me a better person. There are few things of which I am certain but this is one.
In retrospect, that, then, was just the right amount of Online.
Mere ‘anxiety’ is at the source of everything.
A good feed reader puts the content first - removes the framing, the site itself, though makes its easily accessible; puts it into a readable, simple format that focuses on its reader and their reading habits; treats the content as something to be respected but only alongside content from many other place, voices, people.
Ideally, it also minimises the need for fiddling with XML or feed buttons or anything even vaguely technical, such as asking something to understand what ‘RSS’ is. This is something email newsletters do naturally and pod-catcher services still struggle with (before they start building or importing their own indexes).
The big RSS-heads wax extremely nostalgic about Google Reader (and this includes me) but I wonder if big ‘feed reader’ of the late 2000’s was actually the Tumblr Dashboard.
Attention discourse proceeds under the sign of scarcity. It treats attention as a resource, and, by doing so, maybe it has given up the game. To speak about attention as a resource is to grant and even encourage its commodification. If attention is scarce, then a competitive attention economy flows inevitably from it. In other words, to think of attention as a resource is already to invite the possibility that it may be extracted. Perhaps this seems like the natural way of thinking about attention, but, of course, this is precisely the kind of certainty Illich invited us to question.
If I have exactly as much attention as I need, then in those moments when I feel as if I don’t, the problem is not that I don’t have enough attention. It lies elsewhere. […]
But it may be, too, that my initial proposition requires a qualification. Let’s put it this way: you and I have exactly as much attention as we need at any given moment provided that at that moment we also know what it would be good for us to do.
Is this blog some kind of cargo-cult Tumblog now? Some shonky, hay-bales-and-twine facsimile of some halcyon time, assembled in some vain, misunderstood attempt to revive it?
I’m okay with it.
49 of those sites are inactive and 32 are no longer reachable, Feedly tells me. ↩