Infotention and the selection of sources

The internet is continually and infinitely expanding. It is cluttered with information, publications, news, music and millions of bites worth of files. Given the extraordinarily large amounts of information on the internet we are being forced to choose the information we are attentive to. We are finding the need to filter the clutter of data in order to give us what we want.

The multitude of information on the internet has forced us to develop new habits and techniques to gather data. Our attention is so scattered in all this information that it becomes impossible to process the meaning of everything online. Citizens need not only know, but know HOW to know by leveraging our mental capacities, social networks, and technological tools. Rheingold understands this combination of the desire to gather information and our inability to concentrate on a particular source in depth (due to the extent of online resources) as what he labels ‘infotention’.

The necessity of filtering systems is summarized in this cartoon:

We are now finding it much more difficult to remain attentive to a particular source and find the need to gather the infinite amount of sources available. Our filtering systems and ‘infotention’ which looks at what is important information to us are extremely important. If we didn’t have them then wouldn’t every assignment turn out like the cartoon above?

A clear example of infotention in practice is the writing of this blog and the information gathered from the multitude of supplied readings for the week. Select information was gathered about the readings despite there being many points expressed and a lot of information supplied in all of them. I chose, through my own internal filtering device (and a little help from google), what were the most important parts of the readings and what was most significant when discussing ‘infotention’. Thus, clearly my own infotention has been put into practice through writing this blog. In essence attention (and infotention) is, therefore, the process by which value is produced as insperable from the production of subjectivity – that is from the invention and diffusion of common desires, beliefs and affects.

It is clear that consumption of attention and information is an extremely useful resource. Direct attention is even more useful in a world that continuous partial attention (as Stone calls it) is increasingly common. Our attention is being constantly divided and shifted. We are in need of finding a way to manage our attention and, as Jenkins puts it, “shifting it as needed between modes which involve scanning their environment for meaningful inputs and focusing closely on a specific domain”. Teaching people to manage their attention could be a profitable entrepreneurial enterprise.

However, if something like the attention economy were to come about, there would be no need for such entrepreneurial enterprises. The attention economy revolves around ‘paying’ for things through supplying information. This would be a useful method of abolishing payment systems (such as paywalls and payment for learning resources). In return for gathering information you could supply information (such as feedback to the site). This is an interesting method of combining an attention economy and the commons movement, which believes in access to information for everyone.


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