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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle To Get Inside Our Heads – Tim Wu, 2018

2022-03-08 16:25

Admin

Reading Room, The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle To Get Inside Our Heads,

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle To Get Inside Our Heads – Tim Wu, 2018

Tim Wu provides a compelling and meticulous historical account of the ways in which the battle to harvest attention have been fought

Tim Wu provides a compelling and meticulous historical account of the ways in which the battle to harvest attention have been fought – from the first newspaper barons and the snake-oil salesmen of the 19th Century, right up to the tactics leveraged by the current inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

The history shows that dominating mindshare is a classic strategy of influence. But Wu points out that whatever our personal goals, the objectives of the attention merchants are generally at odds with our own. In today’s age of distraction, it’s high time we acknowledged the preciousness of our attention and reclaim ownership of the very experience of living, he says. If technology doesn’t follow culture so much as culture follows technology, we clearly need more tools that help us focus and think, rather than distract and diminish.

 

Wu questions the costs to society of an entire population conditioned to spend so much of their waking lives not in concentration and focus but rather in fragmentary awareness and subject to constant interruption:

 

“The most pressing question in our times is not how the attention merchant should conduct business, but where and when [...] What is called for might be termed a human reclamation project. Over the coming century, the most vital human resource in need of conservation and protection is likely to be our own consciousness and mental space.”

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