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Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Attention Economy - The Natural Economy Of The Net by Michael H. Goldhaber

[Via Kathleen]Michael writes, "If the Web and the Net can be viewed as spaces in which we will increasingly live our lives, the economic laws we will live under have to be natural to this new space. These laws turn out to be quite different from what the old economics teaches, or what rubrics such as "the information age" suggest. What counts most is what is most scarce now, namely attention. The attention economy brings with it its own kind of wealth, its own class divisions - stars vs. fans - and its own forms of property, all of which make it incompatible with the industrial-money-market based economy it bids fair to replace. Success will come to those who best accommodate to this new reality".What we mean by economics cannot be taken for granted if what we are talking about is the economics which applies, say, to the Internet, or more generally to cyberspace, or more generally still, to life in the foreseeable future. We are moving into a period wholly different from the past era of factory-based mass production of material items when talk of money, prices, returns on investment, laws of supply and demand, and so on all made excellent sense. We now have to think in wholly new economic terms, for we are entering an entirely new kind of economy. The old concepts will just not have value in that new context.what is this new economy about? Well if the Net exemplifies it, then you might guess it has less to do with material things than with the kinds of entity that can flow through the Net. We are told over and over just what that is: information. Information, however, would be an impossible basis for an economy, for one simple reason: economies are governed by what is scarce, and information, especially on the Net, is not only abundant, but overflowing. We are drowning in the stuff, and yet more and more comes at us daily. That is why terms like "information glut" have become commonplace, after all. Attention, at least the kind we care about, is an intrinsically scarce resource. Just as in a money economy practically everyone must have some money to survive, so attention in some quantities is pretty much a prerequisite for survival, and attention is actually far more basic.Michael concludes by saying,"The attention economy is already here, and more completely so every day".
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