Winter of the Mind

On the front lines of the attention liberation movement

I AM WALKING AROUND Hell’s Kitchen like a French Marxist. This is to say: slowly and weirdly. Dangerously. I have been told to “set aside all of my usual motives for movement and action,” and follow only what draws my attention. Stepping into Fifty-Fourth Street to beeline toward a crushed bed of magenta flowers sprinkled with dog shit, I am almost hit by a car.

I am performing what’s called a dérive, which loosely means “drift” in French. Guy Debord of the Situationist International devised the exercise in the 1950s as a way of disorienting himself and his friends. By breaking the rules of the street, Debord hoped to inspire people to see themselves and the city in a new way. The Situationists would dérive around Paris for days on end, once for as long as two months. I am due back at a cooperatively run event space in twelve minutes.

A month prior, clicking through Instagram stories, I saw a sponsored advertisement for something called an “attention lab,” hosted by a group called the Strother School of Radical Attention. An Instagram page described the group as “a B…

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