Attention Econo.. Oh look a goldfish!

Let me just throw this scenario out there:

When you’re doing an assignment and you get distracted by Facebook (on your computer). You get frustrated at letting yourself get distracted again, so you switch back to your work. Now you realize you’ve lost your train of thought and the conclusion to your paragraph. Your computer is your “work space” so you switch to your phone with the intention to browse a few articles on Facebook, maybe just open a few Snapchats. Then it hits you. You just took a break from your Facebook feed- to scroll your Faceboook feed. This anecdote best helps me understand the notion of spatiality. Each device has similar capabilities and the uses are the same (for the most part) however one just feels more akin to ‘wasting time’. The way a lot of us have evolved our phone’s primary use to a distraction mechanism.

So essentially a large proportion of what I’m doing on my phone is for distraction/waiting/procrastination/don’t-want-to-look-like-a-loner. I have this theory that it’s much easier for me to waste cumulative time on my phone as a lot of what we do and see is built around the SHORT attention economy. Thirty 30 second videos, for me, seems ‘easier’ to watch than an entire 15-minute video. Because in those 15 minutes, I guarantee you that I’ll be distracted by something else – particularly on the internet where click bait, rampant banner advertisements and sponsored (regulated + personalised) content keeps us stimulated. Otherwise we might realize that staring at a screen is bad for you.

The lecture showed us that according to the 2013 Nielsen report;

  • three-quarters of viewers multi-task with two sets of content while watching television.

The 2013 Social TV Report, backed by Yahoo and 7, found that;

  • 33% of their respondents discussed television on social media as they watched it, with 46% also reported that it increased their level of enjoyment.


I’m not saying it’s either good nor bad but just think about how a person multitasking is so much less effective at each job than someone as if they were to do each thing separately… what are we overlooking by constantly looking?

Maybe by living in this connected life where multi-tasking is the norm and encouraged, we are performing at life less effectively in terms of things such as spirituality, passion for what we love, and consideration for other human beings. It could be a long-shot, but in theory it’s plausible.

We intertwine and multitask with our real and ‘social media’ lives every day. Perhaps social media is just one big distraction from living actual life to its fullest through compartmentalising people and making them strive to fit within said compartments without them realising their full potential.

Another aspect of the attention economy is exactly that, an economy. The capitalisation upon the shortening memories of consumers has been rampant. Kelly (2008) discusses this and purports that there are eight categories of inimitable values that are extrinsic to the information flows – “A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold… Even material industries are finding that the costs of duplication near zero, so they too will behave like digital copies.”

‘So much information can’t stay unsorted, so the Internet platform uses a model that obsessively sorts the content and information based on your patterns of produsage behaviour. This brings us to a “new economy of filtering” (Mitew 2014) wherein we create an attention economy. More simply put, the low cost of entry, high accessibility, no gatekeepers, low risk element of using the Internet as a platform for information prosuming has created an abundance of copies.’ (Mitew, 2016)

Could this be why we have seen so many viral trends as of late? Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Short videos aimed at raising awareness for a cause – they play on something inherently appealing to us and give many opportunities for companies (like Google) and marketers to harness this and influence patterns of behaviour.



Evans, N 2016, Attention, Presence and Place, lecture, University of Wollongong

Mitew, T 2016, ‘Into the cloud: The long tail and the attention economy,

Click to access Mobile-Consumer-Report-2013.pdf

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