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montehristo Offline
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Quote:Attention Economics and Digital Conversations

Attention economics is generally known as an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity.

It is based on the observation that, as we are inundated with information and products, attention - rather than money - becomes the scarcest resource and where we choose to allocate this attention will increasingly determine what creates economic value.

One of the first persons to publicly discuss this phenomenon was the Nobel prize winner Herbert Simon in an article published in 1971:
"...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

Michael H. Goldhaber and Thomas H. Davenport in the nineties expanded on this subject by highlighting that although at the beginning of the information age we were repeatedly told that the new economy was based on information, the basic concept of economics is that economies are governed by what is scarce and information in the digital age is not only widely available, it is the new ocean we swim in.

According to Goldhaber, information therefore cannot, in a scholastic sense, be the basis for the new economy. So what is the scarcest resource in an era of overabundant information? What scarce resource does information consume and take away? Information consumes attention!
And attention is an intrinsically scarce resource.

If you look at your daily life, you will probably see that the most of the decisions you make every day - and increasingly so - concern where your attention should go. It is an issue every time you receive an email, a chat, a facebook message, a newsletter, perform a search on google, select a form of entertainment etc. (and you may often do all of these at the same time). You may notice that the decisions you make are increasingly more concerned with where to place your attention than, for example, where to place your money.

The catchy side of this is that the most popular use of digital interaction means: email, digital chats etc has become more to do with getting attention (or making your presence acknowledged to the addressee of the conversation) than with transmitting valuable and relevant information, therefore increasing productivity and effectiveness.

This results in a constant exchange of attention prompts from different sources at the same time. The danger of this is that our brain is not yet trained to an appropriate response to these different simultaneous attention prompts. As I discuss in The Principle of Relevance, most people still have an automatic response instinct based on the assumption that if someone is sending you a certain message, it is relevant enough to be worth your attention.

This instinct is a fundamental building block of human social relationships. However, it doesn't serve us in our current complex world of multileveled digital interactions, in which a number of different messages are sent through to us at the same time by different people and a communication itself will most of the times manifest nothing else but the intent to communicate and catch your attention, while this does not mean that the actual content of the communication is relevant, per se, for the mere fact that it was communicated to you.

The digital world requires a a continuous assessment of whether the messages received are worth processing, and whether the message is worth your attention.

[You have permission to reprint this article in your newspaper, website or blog provided you do not change it and you include the following language: Article by Stefania Lucchetti, Author and Keynote Speaker, Expert on Leadership, Productivity and Making Ideas Happen, http://www.stefanialucchetti.com]

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