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Are We Ready to Pay Attention?
By Marcia L. Conner

Nothing in the new technology increases the number of hours in the day or the capacities of human beings to absorb information. The real design problem is not to provide more information to people but to allocate the time they have available for receiving information so that they will get only the information that is most important and relevant to the decisions they will make. The task is not to design information-distributing systems but intelligent information-filtering systems.

Herbert A. Simon, Sciences of the Artificial


attention noun 1. a focusing of the mind on something <gave the problem careful attention> Synonyms application, concentration, consideration, debate, deliberation, heed, study. Related Word assiduity, diligence, industry, sedulity, sedulousness; notice, observation, regard, remark; absorption, engrossment, immersion, intentness. Contrasted Words absence, absentmindedness, abstraction, detachment, remoteness, withdrawal; disinterest, indifference, unconcern, unmindfulness. Antonyms inattention. 2. Synonyms: notice, cognizance, heed, mark, ||mind, note, observance, observation, regard, remark Related Word awareness, consciousness, mindfulness, sensibility. Contrasted Words: disregard, heedlessness, insensibility, unawareness, unconsciousness. 3. Synonyms: courtesy, amenity, gallantry. Related Word: deference, homage, honor, reverence; benignity; considerateness, consideration, kindliness, solicitude. Contrasted Words neglect, negligence; aloofness, indifference, unconcern; discourtesy.

While I create a page dedicated to Attention and the Attention Economy (based on my talks and writings), I want to point you to a vast number of articles and resources on Attention available to you today.

Books about attention
Articles about attention
Other good stuff


The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business. Thomas H. Davenport, John C. Beck. (HBSP, 2001) "The Attention Economy, where the scarcest resource for today's business leaders is no longer just land, capital, or human labor, and it certainly isn't information. Attention is what's in short supply." A terrific new book. Available in Adobe Reader format. Also view this books' accompanying website. Read an excerpt.

The Psychology of Attention

Attention (Studies in Cognition Series)

Attention Economy: How the Entertainment and Media Industries Will be Turned Upside Down. Bennett E. McClellan, Saul J. Berman. Another new book on changing the nature of business in the 21st century.

Attention! How to Interrupt, Yell, Whisper, and Touch Consumers. Ken Sacharin (John Wiley, 2000)


eLearning and the Attention Economy: Here, There, and Everywhere? Thomas H. Davenport. (LiNE Zine, Summer 2001) We live in an attention economy. At this point in history, capital, labor, and information are all in plentiful supply. Computer processing power increases by leaps and bounds, but the processing power of the human brain stays the same. Telecommunications bandwidth is not a problem; human bandwidth is. The implications for business are dramatic. Through research and simple observation I've become convinced that attention is the scarce resource in today's economy. Education and learning activities, and elearning in particular, are major consumers of attention. How will they compete?

Art and the Attention Economy in Real Space and Cyberspace Michael H. Goldhaber. "Not long ago, as I left an art exhibit, I suddenly realized that I was intensely scrutinizing the sidewalk I was walking on. Art does that; it succeeds by drawing forth our attention as strongly as possible. In fact you might define art that way; it's purpose is precisely to draw attention. That is all it has to do to be art. Beauty or moral lessons are not required; successful strategies for attention getting are." Also see, The Attention Economy and the Net and a message back to Michael about the art article above. Be warned, it's dense reading.

Managing and living in the attention economy Tom H. Davenport. CIO Magazine, October 1998. "It's not what we do, it's getting people to pay attention to it. That is the most important issue facing business from now on, Tom Davenport says. The expert on knowledge management and Boston University professor says the issue is so new that nobody is proficient at it yet. Perhaps this is because most business people have been focusing on the tasks of what Davenport calls the First World Information War (1954-1998). That 'war' was fought over how to bring vast amounts of knowledge and information to the desktop. The new information war, which has already begun, is over getting individuals and organizations to use that information effectively. Time, or the attention we are willing to devote to each task, is the issue here."

We've got to pay attention! Making the most of an information-rich environment. Think Tank by Tom Davenport. CIO Magazine. November 1, 1998. "Today's economy has economy has often been described as revolving around information, and indeed, information seems to be what economic actors exchange these days. But economies are generally built on the exchange of what is scarce."

Art of Concentration Jeff Berner, ThirdAge. "It takes  balance to juggle all the elements of a successful career, or to live the life  of a consultant or entrepreneur. The learning curve seems to be straight up, and  the hats you must wear from hour to hour seem to come in too many shapes and  sizes. And the most common complaint heard across all the professions and trades is, 'I just don't have the time to -----.' All of this stress results in people feeling that they have no real life...."

Attention Shoppers. Michael H. Goldhaber. Wired. December 1997. "The currency of the New Economy won't be money, but attention — a radical theory of value."

Alamut on the Attention Economy. Also see a discussion between Doro Franck and Georg Franck on: The Economy of Attention on the Alamut site.

Attention, Media, Value and Economics First Monday. Also see Economics is dead. Long live economics!, and The Attention Economy: Natural Economy of the Net

Other good stuff

If you'd like to see Attention in action, look at the It's Alive! Boids of a feather simulation. Wonderful!

Few people I know have a shorter, or more interesting attention span that Jay Cross. See what he thinks about Attention.

Modeling Feature and Conjunction Searches with Feature-Driven Location Selection Vanderbilt University

The Attention Economy and the Net Michael H. Goldhaber. Draft version of a talk presented at the conference on "Economics of Digital Information," Cambridge, MA, Jan. 23-26, 1997.

Website of the The Long Now Foundation. "The Long Now Foundation was officially established in 01996 to develop the Clock/Library Projects as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. It has been nearly 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age and the emergence of modern civilization. Progress during that time was often measured on a faster/cheaper scale. The Long Now Foundation seeks to promote slower/better thinking and to focus our collective creativity on the next 10,000 years."

Books and resources on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)


If you reference this page in a report or article, the citation should read:

Conner, M. L. "Ready to Pay Attention." Ageless Learner, 1997-2004.

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Last Updated:
April 9, 2005