Attention – Part One

My Attention was drawn by the recent Gillmor Gang on Attention, forcing me to listen to the whole thing three times in order to get a handle on where the Gang was coming from. Steve Gillmor is now the president of Attention Trust, a new non-profit group interested in advocating for the “basic rights of attention owners,” which is the reason for the choice in topic. The guest, Seth Goldstein, serves as the new group’s Chairman. Now, why did it take me three listens to understand the concept? Because Attention is a poorly defined, nebulous, but still interesting idea that is in need of further development. Lots of it. I’ll explore that further in future posts.

I do believe Doc Searls asks two separate times in the Gillmor Gang show for Attention to be defined, and never gets the same answer twice. Some of the problem comes from the fact that attention.xml is a content rating system that helps you filter out what to pay attention to in your life. Attention Trust seems to be taking a higher-level approach that is actually much closer to an “identity” concept.

Attention Trust defines “Attention”, in part, as “Attention is the substance of focus. It registers your interests by indicating choice for certain things and choice against other things. Any time you pay attention to something (and any time you ignore something), data is created. That data has value, but only if it’s gathered, measured, and analyzed. Right now, you generally lack the ability to capture that data for yourself, so you can’t benefit from it. But what if you could? And what if you could share your data with other people, who were also capturing their own data, or if you could exchange your data for something of value with companies and other institutions that were interested in learning more about the things that interested you? You’d be in control–you would decide who has access to what data, as well as what you’d accept in exchange for access to your data.” Whew, a definition that includes two broad sweeping “what if” statements just in the portion I quoted. It goes on for two more paragraphs in which the author (Goldstein?) admits Attention is poorly defined but asks that you bear with them for now.

In the show, some of the potential discussed for this concept includes:
– Allowing a user of a shopping site, like Amazon, to take her personal shopping history with her to another shopping site in order to get the same personalized recommendations.
– Allowing a user to monetize their own summary of their activities online with advertisers.
– Allowing a user to see how their attention is being used and control who uses it.
– Allowing a user to transfer their attention.

In future posts, I will discuss this concept further, and see how this concept fits into our pre-existing legal framework for the Internet.

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