Attention in the ‘Dotcom’ world

Main issue rises throughout the reading of this week is the criticism for digital archives such as Google search engines, online encyclopedia etc that have cause ‘loss of memory’ in this information economy. This concept is addressed by Herbert Simon (1971) as ‘what information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention’.  In other words, digital resources have caused our brain stops functioning. If this critic is correct, we are nothing more than a ‘reading machine’ which consumes everything being fed. But is it true? I quite doubt about its truthfulness.

Our attention has been reduced in the way online tools have simplified many tasks in our daily lives. Wikipedia or Google search engine reduce a lot of time and effort to search for ‘in-need’ information. We no longer have to read pages over pages of books to find a tiny info. Everything is archived and ready to be presented in front of the user just by a ‘click’. The withdrawal of reading task has caused a loss of attention, since attention is formed through the act of reading and writing as suggested by Stiegler (Sam 2010). Thus knowledge would be disordered or not assimilated at all.  More dramatic consequences may occur if those digital systems collapse. This society will stop functioning as no one knows how to perform their roles. However, this argument is only one side of the coin. Personally, I more agree with the rebuttal raised by Stowe (2010) and O’Malley (2010). In fact, this is not a loss of attention but rather a ‘surplus attention’ (O’Malley 2010). By clicking into the links that Google indentifies to be relating to the required search criteria, users do not only find the answers for their current queries. Hyperlinks embedded allow users to follow up relating matters. In addition, we do not blindly consume whatever Google comes up. Of course, we must learn how to structure the search query to narrow down the related area. Reading through the given links is a ‘must’ to ensure it is what you want.  By cutting the ‘manual’ searching tasks, online archives allow us to have more time to concentrate on our main topic and extend the knowledge beyond it. Thus as affirmed by Stowe (2010) that ‘the rise of social web … is not really about the end of what came before, but instead is the starting point for what comes next: richer and more complex societies’.

References

Macready, J. Douglas (2010) ‘The New Revolution: Stiegler and Arendt on Psychopower, Education, and the Life of the Mind’, The Relative Absolute [online: weblog. Available at: http://therelativeabsolute.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/the-new-revolution-stiegler-and-arendt-on-psychopower-education-and-the-life-of-the-mind/ [Accessed 31 March 2011]

O’Malley, Mike (2010) ‘Attention and Information’, The Aporetic [online].  Available at: http://theaporetic.com/?p=228 [Accessed 31 March 2011]

Boyd, Stowe (2010) ‘The False Question of Attention Economics’, Stowe Boyd [online]. Available at: http://www.stoweboyd.com/post/764818419/the-false-question-of-attention-economics [Accessed 31 March 2011]

Michael H. Goldhaber (1997) ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired [online]. Available at: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html [Accessed 31 March 2011]

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