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Attention Economy: Your Attention is a Resource For Digital Platform’s Economy

What is Attention Economy? Here’s how digital platforms use your attention!


Have you realized that if you interact with a particular kind of content or keep interacting with the posts of some person or page on Facebook, then it will start giving you the notification of that every activity of that person/ page to catch your attention? The moment it becomes aware of the fact that you are interested in particular content, it will show you more of it. And this mechanism is what we know as the attention economy.

What is Attention Economy?

According to the American Psychological Association, attention is “a condition in which cognitive resources are focused on some parts of the environment rather than others.” Love, recognition, obedience, and help are all types of attention. Although theoretically unquantifiable, many people attribute the worth of attention to the amount of time we devote to a certain task. Every day, we struggle with the shortage of attention; while “paying attention” to one thing, we overlook others. We swap attention in the same way that we exchange money. Even if you are reading this article right now, you are exchanging attention.”

Herbert A. Simon, a psychologist, economist, and Nobel Laureate, created the phrase “attention economy” to describe how attention is the “bottleneck of human cognition,” limiting both what we can see and what we can achieve in stimulating situations.

He stated that the mechanism is such that “a surplus of information generates a scarcity of attention,” implying that multitasking is a fallacy.

Micheal Goldhaber cautioned the theoretical physicist later in 1997 that the worldwide economy is changing from a material economy to an attention economy. With the availability of a number of services free of cost in digital spaces, the grabbing of attention is even more. He states that the information is not scarce, attention is.

In the state of the scarcity of attention, consider that your everyday life is full of a lot of things including a job, school, hobbies, family and friends. And amid that, there are multiple social media platforms you are surrounded by. Now, with the scarcity of attention, you won’t be able to do all this at once and hence, you are compelled to make choices.

How you choose and what you choose is dependent on you, and your interests. And that’s what digital platforms do. They either pick what interests you and show you more of that or they introduce something extremely new that is likely to interest you.

And while they do that, they are in competition with the thousand other similar platforms available to you (you know, information is not scarce).

Read More: Teacher’s Day: Why life is the best teacher?

What will they do with your attention?

In the digital spaces, advertisement is both, direct and indirect. Where you might be feeling that the information provider is not getting anything from you for providing you with information, you are subconsciously giving away your attention to them as a commodity. Now the information providers will sell this commodity to the advertisers and make a profit out of your attention.

Take this blog as an example, do you see the ads coming in between while you are reading. Well, that’s how it is. Your attention has been sold to the advertiser and this is the mechanism of digital space.

And well, sorry for giving such a reality check but this is a new reality and you can’t really escape it completely. But you can be mindful of it. Tristan Harris, the creator and former Google design ethicist and product philosopher of the Centre of Human-Technology, suggested that it is monumental when looking at the social media influence. The only way out of monitoring attention is that we have to focus on what we are concerned about.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.

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