Where is our attention now?

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that everyone’s attention was focused on the same media…since there were few available outlets to focus our attention. One such place was The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. People often talked about what happened on the show the next day since so millions watched it simultaneously. Made for interesting and focused discussions around some given topic or humorous event.

Today almost no one watches the same thing. We don’t read the same newspapers, magazines, blogs, web sites, or listen to the same podcasts. Our attention is all over the place. Or is it?

Tonight I read Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine post where he linked to a BBC journalist lamenting the state of the American Democratic party and the now diluted ability to get a liberal message distributed to the masses. What caught my eye were these passages:

Most importantly, the worlds of entertainment and news (which used to pipe a vaguely left-wing message into the nation’s homes) have been blown to bits by technological changes which render them powerless.

There are 600 channels on my television. I never watch any of them.

Next I read Matthew Ingram’s excellent post about Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 whose premise is that the Web needs filters (i.e., learned and knowledgable editors) and that social promotion of article sites like Digg.com and Reddit.com are useless since they’re random.

I mostly don’t care about the lion’s share of articles that bubble up to the top at Digg and Reddit. But what I *do* like is that I can see what other people think is interesting enough to read. Helps me stay on top of what is hitting the consciousness of others.

These social promotion sites (and I’d put ones like YouTube in the same category) are places where the collective can all see, hear or read those items worthy of mass attention. That’s when the “aha!” came: people who are paying attention are making their interests known by viewing, clicking or downloading and soon will be, “…and did you see that video about _____ on YouTube?” If someone hasn’t, they can immediately go there and see what everyone else is talking about.

1 Comment

  1. gadflyzzz on March 25, 2006 at 2:50 am

    Branding is overrated. There existed several thousand years of rich, dense, multilayered, overdetermined culture before late capitalism came along and entrenched the paradigm of the brand as some new natural order of things. There is no natural order that can be captured like a screen snapshot. We exist through time, enjoy it while you can and leave all this thought leadership to the entrepreneurs. Like romantic poetry or hot metal type, their time will pass and everyone will look at each other and say, what the f*ck was that bullsh*t all about?



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