Spring Humanities Colloquium: “Attention and the Infinite Mirror”

Thursday, Feb. 8, 1:00pm – 2:00pm, Beck Rooms, Walsh Library

Speaker: D. Graham Burnett, Princeton University

What is “attention”? How has the understanding of human attention change over time? In what ways have shifting technologies, and changing concepts of personhood, affected our attentional capacities and the role assigned to attention and distraction in key cultural arenas?

In this presentation, the historian of science D. Graham Burnett will discuss his research into laboratory investigations of attention since 1880, and invite reflection on the contemporary challenges raised by the intense “commodification” of human attention in the last decades. In what ways can we resist this industrial-scale “fracking” of human beings?

D. Graham Burnett is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and the History of Science at Princeton University, and the founding director of the Institute for Sustained Attention, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and activism that centers on human attentional capacities. He is an original member of the “Friends of Attention” coalition, and one of the co-creators of the “Strother School of Radical Attention” in Brooklyn, NY.

Burnett co-edited Scenes of Attention: Essays on Mind, Time, and the Senses (New York: Columbia University Press, 2023) with the Paris-based philosopher, Justin E. H. Smith, and Twelve Theses on Attention (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022) with Stevie Knauss. In 2018, Burnett co-curated “Practices of Attention” for the 32nd São Paulo Biennial, and he is associated with the artist collective known as ESTAR(SER), with whom he co-curated THE THIRD, MEANING at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, which ran from 2022 to 2023, and centered on attentional practices in the history of aesthetics.


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