The quality of attention

I’ve written before about the ontological assumptions inherent in the framing of the attention economy. To consider the issue in economic terms tends to imply the fungibility, commensurability and valorisation of attention. There’s much of value here but it easily overlap is the quality of attention, described usefully by Tim Wu on pg 125 of his Attention Merchants:

But of course there are differences in quality of attention; watching an airplane fly overhead is not as involving as being engrossed in a film. We might half listen to a professor babble, but our ears prick up at the sound of a marriage proposal. The most basic dividing line is likely between transitory and sustained attention, the former quick, superficial, and often involuntarily provoked; the latter, deep, long-lasting, and voluntary. What matters for present purposes is that selling us things relies mainly on the former—on which the attention merchant thrives—but our happiness depends on balancing the two.