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Paying Attention to Attention

Paying Attention to Attention

Written by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl
July 13, 2010

It’s “always on.” It’s 24/7/365.

It’s the nature of the Internet and media in general. We are surrounded with competitors for our attention. And those who can capture our attention, even for a few minutes, can reap commercial rewards as they serve up advertisements and sound bites to our attentive “eyeballs.”

So it is not surprising that learning to manage our attention, to focus and direct it, and perhaps to control its commercial value is a significant concern in digital literacy and a topic in discussions of digital culture. Howard Rheingold names “attention” as one of the key 21st-century literacies, and in this video, Attention 101, he talks about a process of paying attention to attention that he instituted in one of his classes. (By the way, at one point he says “60 minutes” when he means “60 seconds.” You’ll know the moment when you hear it.) A second experiment of watching the class watch the class is shared in another video: Attention 102.

Expanding the theme, the links below point to discussions of attention at a personal level and as a commercial concern. Some explore the question of whether attention can be taught or cultivated and raise questions for us as teachers about what Linda Stone has described at “continuous partial attention.” Others provide an overview of the concept of the Attention Economy and discuss the commercial value of attention and reveal how those whose business it is to manage media think about our attention as a commodity.

But, I have to ask, are you still with me?

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