Category: Distracted People

This illuminating Vanity Fair article captures an important transition in digital politics, as the data science driven Clinton campaign was eclipsed by the social media savvy Trump campaign: While Democrats spent the last decade running A/B tests and refining their voter models, Republicans stumbled into learning how to weaponize content on social media by going […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants pg 343 captures something important about the sociology of Donald Trump’s presidency. I think he’s correct about the use of constant strife, echoing the argument by Will Davies about the blurring boundary between war and peace, to dominate the media agenda in a way which ensures the […]

This passage from pg 333 of Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants connects to my analysis of cultural binging. It brings to life the specific cultural characteristics which encourage binge watching, even if they don’t create it: While House of Cards might have made binging mainstream, in the decade before, writers of shows were inventing what Vince Gilligan (of […]

This suggestion from Tim Wu on pg 352 of The Attention Merchants asks a question which has been on my mind a lot in the last year. If we accept the idea that distraction increases in a digital environment, in the sense of a difficulty in sustaining focus driven by the multiplication of disruptions, what does this […]

This passage from Tim Wu’s The Master Switch pg 225 offers a useful account for making sense of the rise of a figure like Lawrence Fox. When the ‘arms race of exposure’ is more intense than ever because social media means a great many of us have entered into it, new strategies become necessary to […]

From Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 202: Among the sources of such comfort would be AOL’s infamous chat rooms. Chat rooms had actually been invented by CompuServe in the 1980s (under that ’70s handle “CB simulator”), but AOL allowed the creation of “private rooms,” which anyone could open, hosting up to twenty-three total strangers. By […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 192-193 makes clear how the immersive character of video games has been treated as addictive from the outset. It raises the question of where the former characteristic ends and the latter begins: In both markets Space Invaders was a sudden and unexpected success—nothing quite like it had […]

I saw an exhibition at the Scott Polar Museum yesterday which made a passing referencing to ‘wikibombing’ as a practice. In this case there was a concerted project to produce wikipedia entries for female explorers and scientists who were absent from the site. I’m recording it here because it’s a useful phrase I hadn’t heard […]

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 […]

From Richard Seymour’s wonderful Patreon blog: It was in this context that what Evans calls “communal listening”, in which the Führer’s speeches were broadcast to workplaces and schools each week, worked. They were, yes, propaganda. But they were also a form of entertainment, organising a grotesquely celebrified relationship between leader and followers. They were glamorous, […]

The popular character of this diagnosis, summarised by Tim Wu on pg 6 of his Attention Merchants, poses the question of how we should treat it as common sense, in the Durkheimian tradition of skepticism about received wisdom. How widespread is this? To what extent does it misrepresent the nature of the problem? To what […]

There’s a fascinating connection between this account on Suicide pg 46-47 and what Bourdieu describes as hysteresis and Archer as contextual incongruity: Because of the extreme sensitivity of his nervous system, his ideas and feelings are always in a situation of unstable balance. Because the faintest impressions have an abnormal effect on him, his mental […]

There’s a simple question at the end of Andrew Chadwick’s The Hybrid Media System which rewards serious thought. From pg 288: Today, we might ask whether the average citizen interested in influencing politics but without ambitions for high political office should join a political organization or create a Twitter account and start interacting with others […]

This is a fascinating finding from a report tracking engagement rates for influencers within a number of sectors. This finding from Instagram reflects my hunch the same thing has happened on Twitter. There are a number of reasons that can be invoked here: the commercial imperatives leading to the decline of organic reach, algorithm tweaks […]

This interesting observation from Robin Sloan (HT The Convivial Society) left me thinking about the duration of projects: For my part, re: craft and theory, I think giving a newsletter some temporal boundaries can be healthy and (weirdly?) productive. Start it up, but decide ahead of time when it will end, and call that a […]