New Rules for the Attention Economy


Once considered a boon to democracy, social media have started to look like its nemesis (The Economist, 11/4/2017)

An economy based on attention is easily gamed.

Social media are a mechanism for capturing, manipulating and consuming attention unlike any other.

the more information people consume through these media, the harder it will become to create a shared, open space for political discussion—or even to imagine that such a place might exist.

To save democracy, he argues, “we need to reform our attention economy.”

The population of America farts about 3m times a minute. It likes things on Facebook about 4m times a minute.


in America a group of senators has introduced the “Honest Ads Act”, which would extend the rules that apply to print, radio and television to social media. Proponents hope it will become law before the 2018 mid-term election.

The attention economy (Aeon Magazine, 10/22/2017)

For all the sophistication of a world in which most of our waking hours are spent consuming or interacting with media, we have scarcely advanced in our understanding of what attention means. What are we actually talking about when we base both business and mental models on a ‘resource’ that, to all intents and purposes, is fabricated from scratch every time a new way of measuring it comes along?

No matter how cunning the algorithms and filters, entire industries of manufactured attention bloom and fade around every possibility of profit. As recent investigations have suggested, achievements in the field range from ‘click farms’ of low-paid workers churning out ersatz engagement to paid endorsements from social media celebrities, via bulk-purchased followers and fake grassroots activists. Every target is continually being moved, refined and undermined. Nobody is in control.

From the loftiest perspective of all, information itself is pulling the strings: free-ranging memes whose ‘purposes’ are pure self-propagation, and whose frantic evolution outstrips all retrospective accounts. This is the mountaintop view of Chesterton’s Satan, whispering in a browser’s ear: consider yourself as interchangeable as the button you’re clicking, as automated as the systems in which you’re implicated. Seen from such a height, you signify nothing beyond your recorded actions.

Zoom in on individual experience, and something obscure from afar becomes obvious: in making our attentiveness a fungible asset, we’re not so much conjuring currency out of thin air as chronically undervaluing our time.

What kind of attention do we deserve from those around us, or owe to them in return? What kind of attention do we ourselves deserve, or need, if we are to be ‘us’ in the fullest possible sense? These aren’t questions that even the most finely tuned popularity contest can resolve. Yet, if contentment and a sense of control are partial measures of success, many of us are selling ourselves far too cheap.

The ‘attention economy’ created by Silicon Valley is bankrupting us (Crunch Network, by Andrew Keen, 7/30/2017)

The real problem with the global, digital community that we all live in, Harris says, is that it’s dominated by three companies: Google, Facebook and Apple.




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