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Digital Lethargy

Dispatches from an Age of Disconnection

Hu explores digital lethargy through a series of works by contemporary artists, writers, and performers. These dispatches from the bleeding edge of digital culture include a fictional dystopia where low-wage Mexican workers laugh and emote for white audiences; a group that invites lazy viewers to strap their Fitbits to a swinging metronome, faking fitness and earning a discount on their health insurance premiums; and a memoir of burnout in an Amazon warehouse. These works dwell within the ordinariness and even banality of digital life, redirecting our attention toward moments of thwarted agency, waiting and passing time. Lethargy, writes Hu, is a drag: it weighs down our ability to rush to solutions, and forces us to talk about the unresolved present.

Tung-Hui Hu is Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan. A former network engineer and a published poet, he is the author of A Prehistory of the Cloud (MIT Press), praised by the New Yorker as “mesmerizing” and by the Guardian as “witty, sharp and theoretically aware.” He was awarded the Rome Prize in Literature in 2022.

Tung-Hui Hu provides deep insight into the mechanisms of the digital age while avoiding any hint of feel-good criticism. Poetic and incisive, Digital Lethargy masterfully diagnoses a disease of our time—CHRISTIANE PAUL, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA STUDIES, THE NEW SCHOOL AND ADJUNCT CURATOR OF DIGITAL ART, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART