Editor’s Desk: Birdwatching Changes Your Attention

 

 Jenny Odell, a multi-disciplinary artist and author of How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy, was a recent guest on New Dimensions. The interview with her Finding an Antidote to the Attention Economy (Program #3689) was broadcast in November 2019. She shared her wisdom about how social media and the Internet are always vying for our attention. She also spoke about how being a birdwatcher taught her something about the quality of our attention. She said, “[There are] different qualities of attention and they affect your sense of time. In the attention economy, for example, the effectiveness of advertising online is measured in amount of time you spend on a website or number of clicks. It assumes that all attention is the same. So, if someone’s looking at it longer rather than shorter then that’s better. Right? It doesn’t really make any room for the possibility of different kinds of attention, like deeper, more critical attention. The attention economy encourages, runs on, and produces a very shallow form of attention that is highly reactive, impatient, and not seeking context. [It gives the] feeling that you have a grasp of something immediately like reading a headline and you don’t even need to read the rest of that piece. Right? This kind of narcissism and self-assurance that I think is also cultivated by social media as a kind of anathema to admit that you’re wrong or to admit that you don’t know something. Right? There are other forms of attention that I’m interested in, through art but also my other big example is bird watching. This is a form of attention that is sustained and, at times, almost ego dissolving. You’re paying so much attention that you’re not even aware of yourself or time passing. It’s inherently open ended. I’m never going to be done watching birds. Every day I will see a bird that I’ve never seen before. Or, I’ll see a juvenile and I didn’t know what a juvenile looked like of that species. It’s this kind of pleasantly unfinished project where my attention is rewarded and, of course, the irony is that this activity which is hugely rewarding to me appears unproductive from a determinist point of view.”

 

To go along with this thought by Jenny Odell,  a dear friend of mine, Claudia L’Amoreaux, who sends out a blog every Friday, recently sent the following on bird watching which I’m reprinting with her permission.

-Justine Willis Toms

 

 Claudia L’Amoreaux helps families navigate the social & emotional complexities of “digital life.” Her email is: claudia@claudialamoreaux.com

 

Bird Tales

January 24, 2020 © by Claudia L’Amoreaux

I’ve written about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I used their Merlin Bird ID this morning to help me identify California Gulls hunting worms in the wet grass where I often walk. Recently, I discovered the book Ruby’s Birds by author Mya Thompson and illustrator Claudia Davila, on the Lab website. I ordered the book to share with my granddaughter. Set in Central Park, a very lively young girl named Ruby gets introduced to bird watching by her neighbor, Eva. Read this short review here.  Scroll down the page and you’ll spot the review.

When I read it with my granddaughter a few nights ago, her favorite picture was the one of Ruby dreaming about birds after her trip to the park. I think my granddaughter also enjoyed the page with the Peregrine Falcon—she had seen a Peregrine not long ago perched on the edge of the apartment building where she lives.

It’s a lovely book to help introduce the young children in your life to the birds all around us. And for the older ones, try some media co-listening to the Bird Note podcast—subscribe and you’ll receive the short vignettes about birds in your inbox. Here’s one: “The Peregrine Falcon Makes a Comeback.

Pay attention to the birds around you. What ones do you know intimately and what ones are still strangers? If you haven’t used Merlin ID, give it a try. And if you have used it, explore it more deeply.

As always, thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you if you have any bird tales to share. You can write me here: claudia@claudialamoreaux.com

Claudia L’Amoreaux

You can subscribe to her blog at https://www.claudialamoreaux.com/subscribe/