Who knew ‘Nothing’ could be so fun

Read. Watch. Listen. introduces you to the personal side of our faculty, staff and alumni. Participants are asked to answer three simple questions about their reading, viewing and listening habits – what one book or newspaper/magazine article is grabbing your attention; what one movie or television show has caught your eye; and what album/song, podcast or radio show are you lending an ear to.

Mark A. Rayner is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies.

Today, he takes a turn on Read. Watch. Listen.

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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. Full disclosure here: I’ve only started reading this book, but even just two chapters into it, I know this is an important read for my life and for my work as an instructor.

In the fall term I usually teach The Social Media and Digital Production Dojo, a required course in the Master of Media in Journalism and Communication (MMJC) program. Each year, the syllabus changes – sometimes radically, and sometimes it’s merely adjusted, but it’s never the same twice, as digital technologies change so quickly. This year, I’ve reached a point where I know I need to address the issue of the attention economy, and its deleterious effects on us as humans.

In all likelihood, many of my students will end up working in social media, or at least having to use social media as part of their professional activities, so completely dropping out – quitting Facebook, terminating Twitter, ending Instagram – is not an option. I’ve already learned ways to think about how to help them put social media into context and to resist the corrosive effects of the media from this readable and thoughtful book.


Silicon Valley. On a related note, I’ve just finished watching the first five seasons of Silicon Valley, a satirical HBO show about the absurdities of venture capitalism, technology companies, and coding. In addition to being hilarious – I frequently laugh out loud watching this show – it delightfully punctures the faux altruism of these companies. (Almost all of the CEOs declare, at some point: “We’re making the world a better place.”) I am a little miffed they riffed off my 2012 book, The Fridgularity, in one of their episodes without giving me any kind of credit.


Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. I’d have to describe this as a guilty pleasure. As much as I get exhausted by the culture of celebrity, I’ll admit to loving Conan and his guests. The premise of this new podcast (they just finished their first season) is that Conan has met all these interesting people on his TV show, and now he’d like to see if they might want to be his friend, as well. I’ve always enjoyed Conan’s off-the-wall sense of humour, and the guests are either screamingly funny or surprisingly thoughtful.

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If you have a suggestion for someone you would like to see in Read. Watch. Listen., or would like to participate yourself, drop a line to inside.western@uwo.ca.