Openness and Attention Economy

Goldhaber’s article on “attention economy” when I read a few years ago was an absolute aha moment for me. It was a seminal article which attempted to articulate in a nice manner the nature governing our lives after the advent of the net. The keypoint put forward was that with the net becoming an important part of our lives we are moving from a “money based” economy to “attention based economy”. Attention here refers to the individual choice made by person to decide what he will do with his time. It is important because it is scarce or rather it is becoming more & more scarce in a relative sense. Check out the article here for more details.


He has published yet another brilliant article in June edition of firstmonday. In it he essentially outlines the value of openness in building attention.


Most of the conversation/discussion(economic/strategic) today on attention and its economics revolve around the utility/preference curve for attention, rarely does anyone question the why behind the utility/preference curve. Goldhaber attempts to give a definition to attention and illustrates what attention paying means and how scarcity of attention occurs. He also argues that attention is an insatiable urge Then he moves on to define various degrees of openness and does an analysis with examples of open source and open access journal stem to show the various type of attention seeking needs that are sought with these open measures.

Some of the salient points of the article include


· Motivation for all openness is rooted at attention scarcity.

· We are now living in world which are raging a “war for attention” whereas once we used to live a wold raging a “war for productive territory”

· Paying attention could be modeled as neuron mirroring. Neuron mirroring refers to excitation of mirror neuron and mirror neuron is a neuron in the brain which fires both when someone performs an action and also when observes the same action performed by another same biological species. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were himself performing the action. With that in mind attention scarcity could be explained very well because if paying attention involves activating the precursors of muscular motion, we also cannot pay attention to two dissimilar motions at once, if they would use any of the same muscles/neurons


· Attention is an insatiable urge , to some degree an audience full of people paying attention to you will want whatever it is you want. It is perhaps the closest humans can come to life after death, as well as to an expanded life while still living.

· Attention that is desirable comes from other beings who are themselves capable of receiving attention, that is they have minds and are social beings; in practice this means we want attention from other humans.

· Attention wealth is in the minds of the beholders

· Maximizing attention means removing the price barrier, so within the fast–developing world of open access, money has become peripheral.

· Money tracks attention. There seems to exist a causal relation between attention and money and by & large money would be of no significance over a period of time

· The role of various instituations would change in this new economy as most of these institutions(firms, universities etc) have their relevance defined in terms of their exsistence with relation to money.

In the not too distant future there would be a world where openness is a norm and not a thing to be scorned off.

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