Are You Paying Attention?

The writer Madeleine Bunting explores why attention has become a major social concern.

Episodes

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01A Worldwide Preoccupation20180226

In the first of five Essays, writer and journalist Madeleine Bunting begins a week-long exploration of why attention has become a major social concern. Attention, she finds, is now big business - where we cast our eyes on a computer screen, and for how long, has become a key factor in advertising. Attention is something we both 'pay' and want to 'attract' - and for a journalist, Madeleine admits, it can be quite addictive. And, as so many people search for their 15 minutes of micro-fame online, getting as much attention as we can seems to have become a worldwide preoccupation. How worried should we be?

02Multitaskers And Gorillas20180227

The writer Madeleine Bunting continues her exploration of how we pay attention.

The writer and journalist Madeleine Bunting continues her exploration of the different ways in which we pay, or fail to pay, attention. Inevitably, she argues, attention to one thing always implies withdrawal of it from others, and in our digital age, the battle for our attention, however brief, has become fiercer than ever. And, Madeleine warns, those who think they can successfully multi-task are probably deluding themselves - as the famous 'gorilla experiment', in which subjects failed to see a man in a gorilla costume walking into a basketball match, has demonstrated.

03Escaping The Onslaught20180228

Writer Madeleine Bunting presents her third Essay on attention in the digital age.

In the third in her series of Essays, writer and journalist Madeleine Bunting grapples with what happens when our bodies and minds can no longer sustain the sensory onslaught offered by digital media, with countless items constantly competing for our attention. For Madeleine herself, the only way to regain her ability to pay deep attention and articulate complex ideas was to cut herself off from digital media for a while; and she recalls how she regained her ability to write during a long and lonely trip to the beaches of the Outer Hebrides.

04Prayer And Snake Oil20180301

In the fourth in her series of Essays on attention, the writer and journalist Madeleine Bunting explores some key moments in the history of how we have paid attention, or failed to do so. The church, she finds, has perfected the use of ritual to focus our attention; and the habit of attention, as French mystic Simone Weil argued, can even be seen as the substance of prayer. But similar ways of attracting and holding attention have also been put to far more sinister use.

05 LASTBeyond The Crisis Of Attention20180302

In this series of Essays, writer and journalist Madeleine Bunting has been exploring some of the pitfalls of the digital revolution: in particular, how it can scatter and manipulate our attention and prevent us from focusing deeply on any one idea. But are the consequences of constant multi-tasking really all negative? Her children, Madeleine admits, would say no - they are capable of doing things on three different screens at once while doing their homework, and they still come away with A*s. Madeleine herself is more dubious about the benefits of scattering her attention too widely - and in this final Essay, she also explores whether Mindfulness meditation can be an antidote to the crisis of attention.