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Attention Economy

by on September 13, 2012

by James Shelley, February 15, 2011
Readability | Instapaper

What does it mean when most of our attention is consumed by the pursuit of attracting the attention of others?
It was back in 1971 that Herbert Simon suggested that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention“1 and now the difficulty of capturing people’s attention (“a highly perishable commodity”)2 has some theorists suggesting that the future “attention economy” will have “its own different implicit rules, roles, cycles, values, etc.“3

If everyone has everyone’s attention the value of attention is nullified. Thus to avoid mental bankruptcy, navigating an “attention economy” means saving, investing and being cunningly conscientious of your own attention. If you treated your attention as a monetary value, would you be considered broke, middle class or well-invested?

  1. Simon, H. A. (1971), “Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World”, in Martin Greenberger, Computers, Communication, and the Public Interest, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press []
  2. Thomas Davenport, John Beck, The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business (Harvard Business School Press, 2001), p. 11 []
  3. Michael Goldhaber, The Attention Economy Hypothesis in Brief, []
One Comment
  1. Attention Implosion
    by James Shelley, March 17, 2011
    Readability | Instapaper

    What do you get when you mix an attention-orientated society with the fact that the fiscal cost of creating an artifact of culture (and displaying it to the world) is virtually zero?

    Attention implosion.

    The people who will thrive in this attention economy will be those who figure how to create objects/content worthy of attention without being utterly sideswiped by the cultural obsession of merely getting attention in the first place.

    Paying attention in a distracted world: it’s like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

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