Distracted Reading Collective: Harnessing new Modes of Attention

Dr. Marion Thain
Global Liberal Studies and English, FAS, NYU
Associate Director of Digital Humanities, NYU
(Twitter: @DistractedRead)

Central to the humanities is the theorisation and practice of modes of attention (to cultural artifacts and to other aspects of the world). Indeed, many of us devote much time to finding ways to redirect our students’ attention away from the distractions of their multiple electronic gadgets. But what if we not only instruct our students in other (older?) acts of attention, but also consider how their distributed focus might enable new acts of attention and new ways of reading? How might we rethink pedagogy — and as a consequence our own research methods — in an era of hyper-connectivity?

This project brings together those already considering such questions and those who are interested in doing so, to devise and share experimental methods of teaching and researching. For example: how might we practice detailed analysis (of art, film, text or music) though the combined resources of multiple media simultaneously; how might apps and/or networking tools be used to shape new acts of attention to our objects of study; how might we better comprehend or represent lines of reasoning (critical, philosophical, historical, and others) through spatial and distributed modalities?

The plan
A consortium of faculty will undertake experiments in our teaching and/or research over the Spring semester (2016), in different departments, institutions and locations, but all under the heading ‘Distracted Reading’ (@DistractedRead).  The experiment might take place in one teaching session, or it might be sewn into a course across the semester, or it might be part of your research or creative practice over the next six months.

The Outcome
Dr. Marion Thain will be editing a special edition of essays resulting from this project, and will also be publishing some posts on a new DH blog (to be launched later this semester) for anyone who would prefer to contribute in that way.  The project will run over the Spring semester (spring 2016) and will result in a symposium at NYU in 2016-17, to which all participants are invited.

Please email Dr. Marion Thain if you’re interested in taking part. Feel free to distribute widely. 


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309