What kind of economy are we moving to? 1. Overview of attention economy concepts

Time for an overview of the material we have collated for our Encyclopedia.

As a reminder, we have a special section for business-oriented material where we focus on the manyfold implications of the emergence of peer production.

Our first argument is that there are in fact two economic realms, a sphere for the direct production of social value, co-existing with our normal ‘monetary’ economy.

As quoted by Erik Kluitenberg:

“… the quest for self-determination and meaningful and memorable experiences ultimately will hinge on people’s understanding that they are not merely consuming a product, but that they are actually participating in a meaningful social process not guided by an extrinsic logic (profit), something that rather has intrinsic, or ‘sovereign’ value. I don’t believe that these two can be fused into one.”

This first economy is getting different names.

1. The point of view of the ethical economy

Adam Arvidsson calls it an Ethical Economy

However, it would seem that Adam stresses how both are intertwined, yet at the same time he writes that social cooperation is now the most important productive factor:

That a generalized, technology-enhanced capacity for manifold cooperation has become the main productive force means that there is no longer any contradiction between ethics and economics. On the contrary, the ethical ability to open up to and share with others has become the most fundamental quality of a successful economic agent.”

At the same time, he also stresses that there is a crisis of value between both the ethical economy and the monetary economy.

So recapitulating Adam’s points and adding them to the original two economies points of view gives this:

1) There are two economies and ethical and a monetary one

2) The ethical economy is already overshadowing the monetary economy, which in turn has to become ethical

3) Nevertheless, the interface between both is problematic

Adam has started a book on the topic, with an introduction to the ethical economy.

The political implications are that as people are producing an ethical surplus, they have an interest in not being expropriated from it. In other words, if it is the interconnected community that produces an ethical surplus, and it is only partially monetized by corporations who do not return any of it to the producers, then we have an ethical exploitation.

2. The point of view of the attention economy

Another approach is that of Michael Goldhaber, who uses the concept of the Attention Economy , which he says is an economy driven by the exchange of attention . The Implicit Goal of Attention Economy is: to tightly intertwine everyone at the level of mind

He even proposes a metric, the TPI coefficient, to calculate how much value is created in the attention economy.

Now here is where it gets confusing. The concept of an attention economy is also used in another sense, nl. that the attention itself becomes a scarce good that can be monetized in a market for attention. This is not what Goldhaber has in mind as his own priority, but is nevertheless also true.

So again we are recapitulating Michael Goldhaber’s conclusion, fusing them with the more narrower interpretation of the monetary attention economy:

1) We are moving to a economy where attention which is dominant

2) However, that new economy cannot be reduced to the monetary economy

3) Nevertheless, there is an interface between both, which means that attention can also be partially, but not totally, monetized

4) The part that operates outside of the monetary economy is of a dramatically higher level. Ultimately attention cannot be reduced to money and therefore the attention economy is different from the capitalist economy.

As we can see there is a substantial agreement on the key problematic.

3. The attention economy as a field of action

The attention economy is also a pragmatic field of action. There is a movement afoot that aims to develop an attention architecture so that we can have open attention standards.

Examples are the Attention Trust, and they are developing technical means such as the Attention Recorder and the Attention Profiling Mark-up Language. Their aim is that every user of digital media would be the owner and controller of his own Attention and Attention Data. The community of users would then not be expropriated of its own Attention Curve.

4. Some further approaches

There is also another approach, which stresses that we are living in a Conversation Economy, and that Markets are Conversations .

Most of the conversation around this theme is much more narrow and stresses the changes in behaviour for businesses engaging in such conversation. It is a field most open to manipulative abuse.

For more information, listen or watch the following podcasts and webcasts:

1) http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Supernova_2005_Attention_Panel

2) http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Doc_Searls_on_the_Attention_and_Intention_Economy

3) http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Linda_Stone_on_Attention_in_an_Always-on-World

And read this print interview with Michael Goldhaber.

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