We are surrounded today, everywhere, all the time, by arrays of multiple, simultaneous images — in the streets, airports, shopping centers and gyms, and also on our computers and TV sets. The idea of a single image commanding our attention has faded away. It seems as if we need to be distracted in order to concentrate, as if we — all of us living in this new kind of space, the space of information — could be diagnosed en masse with attention deficit disorder. The state of distraction in the metropolis, described so eloquently by Walter Benjamin early in the twentieth century, seems to have been replaced by a new form of distraction, which is to say, a new form of attention. Rather than wander cinematically through the city, we now look in one direction and see many juxtaposed moving images, more than we can possibly synthesize or reduce to a single impression. We sit in front of our computers on our ergonomically perfected chairs, staring with a fixed gaze at many simultaneously “open” windows through which different kinds of information stream toward us. We hardly even notice it. It seems natural, as if we were simply breathing in the information.
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