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Danielle Alio / Office of Communications Cover design by Chris Ferrante

The University has announced the Pre-read book selected for the Class of 2023: “Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy,” by James Williams.

The book focuses on “the philosophy of attention and persuasion in technology design,” according to the Office of Communications. It raises ethical questions around the use of technology and attention.

Williams worked as a technology and business strategist at Google for ten years and recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford.

In a video announcement, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 said he was “thrilled to include this book in our Pre-read tradition.”

“I’m excited about this book because it talks about some changes that have been happening in our lives in ways that we almost haven’t noticed,” Eisgruber said. “Over the past decade or so, we’ve all become dependent on this digital technology that’s all around us now.”

According to Eisgruber, the book emphasizes that, along with the many benefits technology brings, technology also reduces “our ability to focus on the ends and goals that really matter to us.” Eisgruber said that in the political realm specifically, digital technology and the information economy are “heating up democracy” and “making conversation more volatile.” 

“James Williams, in this remarkable, short book raises a series of questions that I think all of us need to be thinking about,” Eisgruber said in the video.

The annual Pre-read selection began in 2013, when Eisgruber selected Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” as required reading for the Class of 2017. This year’s Pre-read will mark the seventh year of the tradition.

Members of the Class of 2023 will be mailed the Pre-read novel this summer. According to Eisgruber, the book will also be distributed to all entering graduate students.

Last year, the Class of 2022 Pre-read was “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech” by University politics professor Keith Whittington.

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