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The Secret World of Doing Nothing$
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Orvar Lofgren and Billy Ehn

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520262614

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520262614.001.0001

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(p.9) Chapter One Waiting
The Secret World of Doing Nothing

Billy Ehn

Orvar Löfgren

University of California Press

This chapter opens with a discussion of Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson and Prime Minister Olof Palme, who were kept waiting before they could meet Saddam Hussein in one of his Baghdad palaces. It focuses on waiting as a cultural practice, one shaped by shifting historical and social conditions and something that people learn to handle, a skill that must be trained and developed. The examples are presented from different situations and parts of the world, from hospitals, street corners, travel experiences, and the final weeks of pregnancy. This theme of waiting dwells further into emotionality and explains how, as in an example from Baghdad, waiting is linked to power. Like many other examples of doing nothing, waiting turns out to be a phenomenon that is difficult to study head-on. Later, this chapter discusses various things that one does while waiting and various ways by which one can benefit while waiting. It highlights the fact that waiting seems to be a state of mind, a psychological condition, that is not directly observable.

Keywords:   waiting, cultural practice, state of mind, emotionality, power

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