Pay Attention!

The Internet has undoubtedly had a great impact on our social expectations. With so much information at our fingertips and new ways in which to communicate it, society has changed drastically. Social change is not something that can be easily diagrammed, or even to explain. I will attempt to explain some of these changes through some of the popular concepts being discussed today.

In the reading, The Commons Moment is Now, Jay Walljasper sees the possibility for large numbers of people of diverse ideological stripes coming together to chart a new, more cooperative direction for modern society, known as a commons-based society. He suggest that people today are yearning for a more safe and sustainable environment and no longer trust the government to act on their behalf. How is the possible? The Internet has opened forums for us to communicate and share ideas and ideals for a more healthy planet.

Stefan Meretz defined the commons movement by saying that, “the global commons movement exists as an assemblage of movements spread around the globe beginning to become aware of its global and interrelated character. Where they are successful, market cannot evolve. Where they manage their own affairs, the state is not required”.

Social networking sites and open access sites have changed the traditional factory environment. These new ways in which we produce and distribute information is changing the world. Online material becomes common material and individual experiences become collective experiences.

A great example of this is Twitter. Twitter allows us to communicate to anyone who has an account, which is estimated at about 200 million. It is not just a social networking site, but a news source and a medium for social change. The Tunisian riots, were seen by many as a Twitter revolution.

What becomes incresingly important when ‘producing’ and ‘distributing’ online is reaching an audience. We write so that people will see this information on their monitors and most importnatly, pay attention. Attention, write Thomas Mandel and Gerard Van der Leun in their 1996 book Rules of the Net, “is the hard currency of cyberspace.”

Many of the readings this week suggested that attention will replace money as the main commodity in the industrial economy. It may seem like a radical idea now, but we are already seeing the power that comes with a great deal of attention. Everyone craves this attention. This takes me back to the Archive Fever reading in week five, which introduced me to the concept of search engine opitimisers. These are people devoted to improving the visibility of a website or web page through search engines like Google. In short, they are trying to get our attention.

Howard Rheingold came up with the term infotention to describe the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today. He says, the mental ability to deploy the form of attention appropriate for each moment is an essential internal skill for people who want to find, direct, and manage streams of relevant information by using online media knowledgeably” (Rheingold, H. 2009).

Some say the information available on the Internet doubles every second year. Everyone is demanding a piece of the attention. I think as a result, we are not getting dumber as some suggest, but are learning how to filter information. Rheingold puts it rather more eloquently in saying, “every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.”

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