Week 6: Attention and Commons

This week we explore the idea that the organisation of attention is where a lot of the action is when it comes to how we organise what we have in common. Basically, there is a question of how publishing and assemblages affect or constructs our attention and as such how does this bring together social groups?

Meretz (2011) state that “Commons potentially being a new form of societal production do not guarantee that they become prevalent. Nothing happens by itself, it has to be done. The process of becoming aware just has begun. But it has begun.” As such, this revolves around the idea that social groups do not just become, but it is the attention that we place onto certain publishing assemblages and published work that lead to a commons for it affects how we organise commons.

However, it is noted that attention has its own “dynamics, its own consequences” (Goldhaber 1997). Goldhaber elaborates that “Attention is more mysterious, a process that can occur only in a mind, yet somehow it moves out into the world as well.” This could be seen in terms of Facebook, when you are inbox-ing someone or positing on someones wall, needless to say, your attention goes to the party receiving or messages and moreover, you attention also flows through your actions.

While social media is ubiquitous, there has been concerns on its effects on our attention. Tempel (2011) notes that scientists deem that “indulging in the ceaseless disruption isn’t good for our brains” and that psychiatrists has  raised concerns that “people are increasingly demonstrating addict-like behaviour when it comes to technology, unable to ignore its pull, even when it negatively affects them”. I would argue this to be true to an extent due to my own experience with YouTube and Facebook… I mean, it did take me a very VERY long time to write this essay because I am constantly being distracted by other social media platforms. However, despite this, I would argue Heffernan’s notion that “attention spans used to be robust; and now they are stunted” because technology has “shrivelled them” is quite dramatic (Heffernan 2010). Clearly, our attention to social media has allowed for a commons to form around it, however regardless of social media or not there is evidence that  “under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what’s called ‘mind wandering'” (Rock 2010).



Goldhaber, M.H (1997) ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired, <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>

Heffernan, V (2010) ‘The Attention Span Myth’, New York Times, <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/magazine/21FOB-medium-t.html>

Meretz, S (2010) ‘Ten Theses about Global Commons Movement’, P2P Foundation, <http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/ten-theses-about-global-commons-movement/2011/01/05>

Rock, D (2010) ‘New study shows humans are on auto pilot nearly half the time’, Psychology Today<http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-are-auto-pilot-nearly-half-the-time>

Temple, J (2011) ‘All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain’ San Fransciso Chronicle, April 17, <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/16/BUTO1J0S2P.DTL>






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