I stumbled across this post by Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing.net that I thought might be of interest: “Notes on an attention economy.” Doctorow cites Herbert Simon from 1971 on the relationship between information and attention:

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.

Given that attention is a limited resource, it raises questions about what happens when we are faced with so much of it and how we might allocate our attention resources.

Doctorow then points to a recent article by Michael Erard titled “A Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention,” about which Doctorow says, “Apart from some extremely dubious Ronald Reagan worship, the article is a fascinating read.”  One aspect of Erard’s piece that is intentionally provocative is his suggestion that more complex and demanding information ought to be free and easily accessible while the micro-bursts of information candy that we love should command a higher price. Also interesting is the distinction he draws near the end between commodities and gifts.

Part of what makes a piece like this interesting is that it can provoke discussion (something partially demonstrated in the comments in response to his article). For me the interplay between attention and information raises questions about our capacity to process significant information in meaningful ways, not to mention the potential obstacles that might arise to identifying information that is significant which should demand our attention.

There’s a related post at Creating Passionate Users from 2006: The Asymptotic Twitter Curve. According to the author:

For those of you who don’t know about Twitter, it has one purpose in life–to be (in its own words)–A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? And people answer it. And answer it. And answer it. Over and over and over again, every moment of every hour, people type in a word, fragment, or sentence about what they’re doing right then….Twitter, it seems, is the solution to the one problem we all have: it’s just too damn hard to keep updating our blog every few minutes to tell the world what we’re doing at that very moment.

They offer up this graphic:

The key point in the post isn’t that Twitter is the problem, rather it is symptomatic of the time-pressures we feel in our lives. The author then goes on to cite a number of sources (including Linda Stone on continuous partial attention) that seek to come to terms with this tension in our lives.

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