Attention is the machine of the new economy. Michael H. Goldhaber's 1997 speech, The Attention Economy and the Net, presented to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government's "Economics of Digital Information Conference" has been listed as one of the top most-read papers in March 2006 on the peer-reviewed journal site, First Monday. Goldhaber's first book was Reinventing Technology and his most recent book, The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business, was published in 2002 by the Harvard Business School Press.
Linda Stone first coined the term Continuous Partial Attention (CPA) and O'Reilly's Nathan Torkington gives a good history of it here and he notes this from her talk: "Now we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled...Attention is dynamic, and there are sociocultural influences that push us to pay attention one way or another. Our use of attention and how it evolves is culturally determined."
Read Georg Franck's Essay on Science and Society: Scientific Communication - a Vanity Fair? to see how attention is a mode of payment for scientists and thinkers. Barry Schwartz, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, wrote The Paradox of Choice, Why More Is Less. More relevant reading? 2000 Nobel Prize Winner Eric R. Kandel's just-published book, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, is already ranked #269 on Amazon. Newsweek's technology writer Steven Levy wrote recently about Stone and the attention required to be a "digital node" and the "Attention Economy" theme of this spring's emerging Technology Conference in San Diego in terms of "digital distraction."
Joi Ito discussed this with Stone and wrote about it in terms of the difference between loss-less and lossy compression technology. "The trick is to get a picture of what is going on from a perspective that makes sense for you in a format that compresses well for you," he wrote.
Pam and Pierre Omidyar, founder of e-bay, are supporters of the non-profit AttentionTrust.org. Here is the wiki and here is the blog. The basic principle is that you control and own what you pay attention to...your "data" in otherwords. It sounds like a move in the right direction but when I get to this part about how the services work, it is a little more than my CPA can deal with.
Clay Shirky is on the Board as is Seth Goldstein. Golstein wrote very recently about attention and the gold potential of harnessing/hooking the looks. Board member Nick Bradbury can share our pain with Dell Hell experiences. Ed Batista is also on the board and if you read about his writings on leadership (16th century ideas respun to modern theories), it will make you want to keep up with this organization.
Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention.
5/11 Update: Ed Batista (full note in comments) has corrected this information to note that the co-founders of AttentionTrust.org were Steve Gillmor and Seth Goldstein. The Omidyar Network has made a grant to support AttentionTrust. The copy above has been changed to note the Omidyar support rather than list them as founders. Thanks, Ed.