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?
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 [↩]
Thomas Davenport, John Beck, The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business (Harvard Business School Press, 2001), p. 11 [↩]
Michael Goldhaber, The Attention Economy Hypothesis in Brief, http://goldhaber.org/?p=197 [↩]
It never ceases to amaze me how few people who work in the Communications business understand this principle or what a profound effect abundance has on people's ability and propensity to be able to make decisions. Recently I've been lucky enough to start working with Hannah Charlton and Tony Ward - two great allies in insisting on annoying people with the question 'why would someone bother?' and 'what value does it deliver?'. The Economist article on the tyranny of choice 'You Choose' is a great complement to James Shelley's piece above.