November 2015, Polity
It is often argued that contemporary media homogenize our thoughts and actions, without us being fully aware of the restrictions they impose. But what if the problem is not that we are all synchronized to the same motions or moments, but rather dispersed into countless different emotional micro-experiences? What if the effect of so-called social media is to calibrate the interactive spectacle so that we never fully feel the same way as other potential allies at the same time? While one person is fuming about economic injustice or climate change denial, another is giggling at a cute cat video. And, two hours late, vice versa. The nebulous indignation which constitutes the very fuel of true social change can be redirected safely around the network, avoiding any dangerous surges of radical activity.
In this short and provocative book, Dominic Pettman examines the deliberate deployment of what he calls hypermodulation, as a key strategy encoded into the contemporary media environment. His account challenges the various narratives that portray social media as a sinister space of synchronized attention, in which we are busily clicking ourselves to death. This critical reflection on the unprecedented power of the Internet requires us to rethink the potential for infinite distraction that our latest technologies now allow.
Preface: There is Nothing Outside the Texting
Chapter 1: Hypermodulation (or the Digital Mood-Ring)
Chapter 2: The Will-to-Synchronize
Chapter 3: Slaves to the Algorithm
Chapter 4: NSFW: The Fappening, and Other Erotic Distractions
Conclusion: Chasing the Unicorn
Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University
"Infinite Distraction offers a critical analysis that is itself attentive to the various nuances of how a new kind of selfhood is being synchronized in screen-based networking. This provocative text is written with flair; it functions as a necessary manual to understand the massive grey zone somewhere between the preprogrammed and the accidental."
Jussi Parikka, University of Southampton