The Secret World of Doing Nothing

The Secret World of Doing Nothing

Billy Ehn
Orvar Löfgren
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppjkh
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  • Book Info
    The Secret World of Doing Nothing
    Book Description:

    In this insightful and pathbreaking reflection on "doing nothing," Billy Ehn and Orvar Löfgren take us on a fascinating tour of what is happening when, to all appearances, absolutely nothing is happening. Sifting through a wide range of examples drawn from literature, published ethnographies, and firsthand research, they probe the unobserved moments in our daily lives-waiting for a bus, daydreaming by the window, performing a routine task-and illuminate these "empty" times as full of significance. Creative, insightful, and profound,The Secret World of Doing Nothingleads us to rethink the ordinary and find meaning in today's hypermodern reality.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94570-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    It is 4:45 p.m. on an ordinary Thursday afternoon at the supermarket. In the long checkout lines people are standing patiently, staring into the air or making small talk. Some of them seem to be daydreaming, while others look around curiously. An everyday scene, trivial and unexciting. It isn’t easy to know whether people are present or not. In their minds they may have traveled to a totally different place. They have shopped at this supermarket so many times that they could almost do it in their sleep. They know how to navigate their shopping cart down the aisles without...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Waiting
    (pp. 9-78)

    In the early 1980s the Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson and Prime Minister Olof Palme had an appointment with Saddam Hussein in one of his Baghdad palaces. They had to wait at their hotel for a few days before, late one night, a limousine with black windows arrived to pick them up. They were driven around in the city for an hour so as to make them lose their bearings.

    Next they had to pass a security control and were led into a waiting room decorated with gold and oak paneling. After being left for a long time in this luxurious...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Routines
    (pp. 79-122)

    Every weekday Harold Crick brushes his teeth seventy-six times, thirty-eight times back and forth, thirty-eight times up and down. Every weekday for twelve years Harold ties his tie in a single Windsor knot instead of a double, thereby saving forty-three seconds. Every weekday for twelve years Harold regularly runs fifty-seven steps per block for six blocks just in time to catch the 8:17 a.m. bus. At work he reviews 7,134 tax files every day as an IRS auditor. Beyond that Harold lives a life of solitude. And every night at precisely 11:13 p.m. Harold goes to bed, alone.

    This was...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Daydreaming
    (pp. 123-206)

    In the summer of 1826 nine-year-old Bramwell Brontë receives a gift of twelve toy soldiers, which he shares with his three sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. The four children live in the vicarage of Haworth, overlooking the Yorkshire moors, where their father is a clergyman. A couple of years earlier their mother had died, and in the preceding year their two older sisters had succumbed to tuberculosis. With the help of the toys the children create a dreamworld for themselves—a magic African kingdom, the Glass Town, founded by a band of adventurers, the twelve soldiers.

    The children call themselves...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR In the Backyards of Modernity?
    (pp. 207-216)

    Sometimes it can be mentally exhausting to read again and again about a modern world in constant flux and transformation, where everything solid melts and nothing stays the same. New identities are tried on or discarded like pieces of clothing, and there is no stable order, only constant reordering. Anything is possible.

    In this way of thinking, the history of modernity—and especially the later stages of modernity, whether called late or postmodernity—is often described in terms of ever-increasing individualism and the constant fragmentation of social life. Old collectives and shared understandings break up, class and other kinds of...

  9. APPENDIX: DOING AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF “NON-EVENTS”
    (pp. 217-228)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 229-242)
  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 243-258)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 259-269)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)