Week Four Blog: Attention and Power




Just a quick note about last week’s blog. From watching Danah Boyd’s Web 2.0 New York talk I have realized that the official term for what I was trying to explain is actually called ‘Homophily’. As Boyd explains that bigotry, intolerance and racism are baked into our media uses. Technology does not disintegrate social division. Instead it reinforces them and could even go as far as to say it encourages it.


Also a quick side note of the irony displayed in this week’s readings on attention. All web links with articles about attention had quite large pop up ads in between the paragraphs of the article or to the side of the article. Very ironic!

If you begin to think about human consciousness being the flow of a river and partner that with the flow of communication, technology and information it can be easy to become overwhelmed. But it also makes it easier to understand why the need for our attention is so important if not priceless.

This week I really enjoyed listening to sociologist Danah Boyd’s talk. I admire the fact that she wasn’t talking about the future of the Internet in positive or negative way but rather used not emotive language by stating facts and highlighting some of the dangers if the Internet is used by humans in a similar fashion to how we use the rest of the world around us. I agree with the point she makes about power. With the birth of the Internet also came a sense of the people taking back the power. Boyd notes that


“Power is no longer in the hands of those who control the channels of distribution, but in the hands of those who control the limited resources of attention, that is, each and all of us.” Danah Boyd (Web 2.0 expo talk)


So here we see there is a shift of power but still opportunities for large corporations and government to once again take hold of power but in a different way to what we have seen before. Michael Bryne’s article talks about attention noting that whoever finally figures out a solution to the attention problem will end up being a very rich and powerful person. That then leads to the question who will be using these powerful attention-grabbing techniques. Surely whoever does will be the ones with all the power.

If we think back to the image of two rivers, one being our mind and the other being information, it’s no wonder that our minds will be more likely to react to some information over others. Boyd defines this as trigger attention. We give our attention to things that trigger a reaction. Where the fault lies in this is that as humans we do ourselves an injustice by only reacting to trigger information as this doesn’t inherently mean it is the best information for us. What this means is that we as a society are consuming content that isn’t good for us. Much like the human body needs a healthy balanced diet so do our minds.




Guillaud, Hubert (2010) (on Danah Boyd) ‘What is implied by living in a world of flow?’, Truthout, January 6, <http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/87704:what-is-implied-by-living-in-a-world-of-flow>

Konnikova, Maria (2014) ‘Being a Better Online Reader’, July 16, The New Yorker, <http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/being-a-better-online-reader>

Byrne, Michael (2016) ‘How To Break the Information Age Trance of “Continuous Partial Attention”’, Motherboard, January 17, <http://motherboard.vice.com/read/welcome-to-the-age-of-continuous-partial-attention>


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