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.
A nice little nudge from Information is Beautiful reminding me to post one of Clay Shirky's stickiest stats about cognitive surplus:
200 billion hours of television watched in the US vs the 100 million hours estimated to have been spent on the creation of Wikipedia. Or to put it another way the US watches a wikipedia's worth of TV advertising every weekend. It's pretty easy to go binary at this point (as many have) about what Clay Shirky's suggesting. TV bad, digital creation good. He's the first to acknowledge that there will always be those for whom consumption will continue to dominate and be preferrable. The point he's making is about what happens when technology enables two new actions - create and share - that amplify the ancient human behaviours of socialise and belong. This is where technology becomes it's most interesting and most powerful: the intersection between new enablement that amplify hard-wired primeval needs.
Ah ha. This is the Craigslist article I was hunting for when I trawled and caught the post below. Brilliant. Excerpt below, full shebang here.
Many people who have heard Newmark's public remarks find the ideals admirable but difficult to apply. What would such an approach mean in practice? His cause is not helped by the fact that if the craigslist management style resembles any political system, it is not democracy but rather a low-key popular dictatorship. Its inner workings are obscure, it publishes no account of its income or expenses, it has no obligation to respond to criticism, and all authority rests in the hands of a single man. Ask Newmark about any feature you would like to see on craigslist and you will always get the same response.
"Ask Jim," he says.
"How do you get your feedback? Have you ever done a poll or anything like that?"
"The thought makes me tired. But you can suggest that to Jim if you wish."
"What if Jim says no?"
"If you want to ask him again, you can," he says.
At this point in our conversation I begin to feel the spirit of Charlie Rose upon me. After all, Newmark is the founder, a major shareholder, and the public face of the company.
"What would it take to get you to fire Jim?" I ask.
A geographers methodology for measuring propensity for evil:
Greed was calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number
of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line. On this map, done in
yellow, Clark County is bile (see map on Page 2).
Envy was calculated using the total number of thefts -- robbery,
burglary, larceny and stolen cars. Rendered in green, of course, Clark
County is emerald.
Wrath was calculated by comparing the total number of violent crimes
-- murder, assault and rape -- reported to the FBI per capita. Vought
and his colleagues used the color red to illustrate wrath, so Clark
County looks like a fresh welt. Washoe is slightly statistically
duller. Everywhere else is a friendly pork pink.
Lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted
diseases -- HIV, AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea -- reported
per capita. Here again, Clark and Washoe counties are worst. Carson
City County is a close third.
Gluttony was calculated by counting the number of fast food
restaurants per capita, and this is one category where Clark County is
bested. First in deep fry goes to Carson City.
Sloth was calculated by comparing expenditures on arts,
entertainment and recreation with the rate of employment. Here again
Clark County is beat, scoring only average on the scale of sloth.
And pride, lastly, is most important. The root of all sins, in this
study, is the aggregate of all data. Vought and his Kansas colleagues
combined all data from the six other sins and averaged it into an
overview of all evil. So pride, mapped in purple, shows the states two
darkest bruises: counties Clark and Carson City.
Odd piece in The Times about a 15 year old intern's report on teen media consumption that seemingly is setting investment bankers' inboxes alight:
Radio With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as
services such as last.fm do this advert free and users can choose the songs
they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses
Newspapers No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as
most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of
text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV
Internet Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an
internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use
Music They are very reluctant to pay for it (most having never bought a
CD) Teenagers from higher income families use iPods and those from lower
income families use mobile phones
Directories Real directories contain listings for builders and
florists, which are services teenagers do not require. They can get the
information free on the internet
Viral/Outdoor Marketing “Most teenagers enjoy and support viral
marketing... Teenagers see adverts on websites (pop-ups, banner ads) as
extremely annoying and pointless...they are portrayed in such a negative
light that no one follows them.”
Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower
end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less.
This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also
it is possible to buy a pirated DVD of the film at the time of release, and
these cost much less than a cinema ticket
Mobile phones The general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are
superior, because of their long list of features, built-in Walkman capacity
Whilst it's tempting to scoff at such seemingly obvious observations (apart from his view on cinema which doesn't seem to ring true) perhaps we should reflect on the kind of thing that a media agency might have produced if asked the same question. Interestingly he doesn't offer an opinion on TV - doesn't he consider TV to be media?
“We’re polluting the pool, and we don’t see
the cost,” said Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at Duke’s
Fuqua School of Business and author of the Predictably Irrational blog.
“When you’re carbon-copying 30 people on an e-mail, you’ve just stolen
30 seconds of 30 people’s lives. If we had to pay 25 cents per e-mail,
we’d think more carefully about what we wrote, and probably write
I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about email recently, partly because of the projects I'm involved with at the moment for BlackBerry and partly becuase I'm developing a bit of an inbox/email checking compulsion. In the corporate world, e-mail overload has led to concerns about
diminishing productivity, prompting a group of technology firms,
including Microsoft, Intel and Google, to band together to devise
solutions. Intel has experimented with e-mail free Fridays, (in the UK Nestle has also started doing this too) and Google
unveiled a Gmail feature that locks users out of e-mail for short
periods of time.
E-mail motivates humans the same way random schedules of reinforcement
motivated rats in experiments conducted by behaviorist researcher B.F. Skinner. People check inboxes obsessively in the small but irresistible hope of
reward: an important e-mail that requires immediate response.
"Loaded but greying man, potentially married, seeks attractive female companion half his age. Will pay for her expenses - if you know what I mean."
If this ad appeals to you then you may well find your spiritual home at seekingarrangement.com. Brutally honest 'Babies' (who join for free) and 'Daddys' twang each others unattached strings to their hearts/wallets content.