Imagining Mus: An Attention-Action Currency (Part 4)

Attention Economy – 3

Alexian Chiavegato in Forbes: “Online, all news content is atomized. Every URL is in competition with another. Algorithms prioritize content on popularity, forcing stories twisted for an emotional response to the top of news feeds. Audiences are exposed to more and more stories that aim to trigger larger and larger emotional responses. The crucial flaw in this exchange is that we’re just not built to process this level of emotion so frequently. Our emotional capacity has a ceiling. You might think it takes a trauma or a global catastrophe to reach it, but a constant low-level assault on our emotions from the news can amount to the same effect.”

Charis Apelgren-Coleman in The Media Online: “When we think of attention economics, brands must entice users to volunteer their attention and spend money. It is also one of the most valuable resources of the digital age.  Publishers use eye-catching animations that call attention to the content. Sites send out frequent notifications with the goal of boosting engagement. Social networking sites are fueling the attention economy with the number of users using those sites every day. The dynamics of the attention economy incentivise companies to draw users in to spend more and more time on apps and sites. Of course, there is a negative side to this. There is an abundance of information out there and because of that, businesses are fighting for our attention. Netflix said last year that they had two big competitors – YouTube and sleep.”

Tim Wu in Wired: “By now, it is pretty well understood that we regularly pay for things in ways other than using money. Sometimes we pay still with cash. But we also pay for things with data, and more often, with our time and attention. We effectively hand over access to our minds in exchange for something “free,” like email, Facebook, or football games on TV. As opposed to “paying” attention, we actually “spend attention,” agreeing to the view ads in exchange for something we really want. The centrality of that deal in our lives makes it outrageous that there are companies who seize our time and attention for absolutely nothing in exchange, and indeed, without consent at all—otherwise known as “attention theft.””

Tristan Harris in Technology Review: “Right now, it is possible for large technology companies to make money by selling thinner and thinner “fake” slices of attention—selling fake clicks from fake sources of news to fake advertisers. These companies make money even if what the link or article leads to is egregiously wrong and propagates misinformation. This opportunism debases the information ecology by destroying our capacity to trust sources of knowledge or share beliefs about what is true, which in turn destroys our capacity for good decision making. The result is polarization, misinformation, and the breakdown of democratic citizenship. We need to create mechanisms that incentivize participants in the digital world to consider longer time frames and the broader impact their actions are having on society.”

Clara Lindh Bergendorff in Forbes: “We are at the beginning of the end of an era. The Attention Economy—the ad-based revenue model that has dominated the creative industries in the 21st century and made the incumbent social platforms some of the most valuable tech companies in the world—has paved the way for its own demise. The Creator Economy—made up of the platforms, marketplaces and tools democratizing creative expression and entrepreneurship; empowering an independent creative class to make a living on their passions—represents a paradigm shift… If we reclaimed our Attention (ciao Attention Economy!) and interact directly with the Creators behind the media and the products we love (hello Creator Economy!) we return to a world in which makers and consumers are more connected… The Creator Economy is a digital and global version of a world we used to know—one where we support and celebrate digital artisans directly.”

There are many views on the past, present and future of the Attention Economy. The one thing that stood out for me is that we cannot fight the Attention Economy. The question I started to ponder was: can we, the actual payers of attention, profit from it?

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.