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Attention-casting

I’ve been trying to write intelligently about the idea of ‘data-blogging’ for a while, but haven’t been able to articulate it all that well up to this point. In “Blog Everything”, I wrote “as a result of digital technology and the metadata it creates, we are able to share parts of our lives in much more fluid ways.” I then proceeded to go into the example of exposing your Netflix queue to your friends and the social implications of the whole thing.

Disregarding the social stuff for the moment, the bigger point is that we now have tools to broadcast our attention. As a result, attention is now media.

If you visit my homepage, you’ll see the Sidenotes in the right-hand column. That is an ever-changing list of links I find interesting. In my mind, the Sidenotes are an equal member of this site with my original entries. As I wrote a while back, “I decided to add the links as content because I believe that’s just what they are: Content. What I tend to do here is annotate/comment on other media. I read things and link to them with my own thoughts and opinions. While that’s not the entirety of the site, it is probably the majority. So with that in mind, why should the links themselves not be given equal real estate?”

Essentially the Sidenotes are a running log of what websites I’m paying attention to. They are a peak into my mind and can spur conversation. In a similar way, I am broadcasting my movies to friends through Netflix, my music through last.fm and my clickstream through Root.

One of the things I feel like I’m always quoting here is Kottke’s 2005 entry on “The fundamental unit of the web”. In it he writes that the web is shrinking: From sites, to pages, posts/permalinks and finally to links. To me, single bits of attention data is the obvious next step (is attentron the appropriate term Seth?).

All it took to turn millions of people into bloggers was a simple interface for posting to the web. Who is to say that Netflix and last.fm aren’t the same thing? Both allow you to broadcast yourself to the world. But even more than that, all these tools cut down the levels of mediation between people. Blogs are so revolutionary because it’s a fairly unfiltered look at people. Linklogs are even less filtered because they contain the ideas behind the ideas. Now imagine if I exposed every click to you, now you know the path behind the ideas that make the ideas (sorry for that).

I guess the question is do you want all that? It’s fun to spy on your friends movie-watching habits, but how deep to you really need to go? (I really don’t know the answer to this, need to give it more though.)

December 6, 2006

Comments

  • Paul McEnany says:

    I think the whole point is that it’s a voluntary sharing of attention. It may go to smaller and smaller bits, but as long as that person has the control of the information flow, it still works. Do I really want everyone to know every single click? Probably not, but there are plenty that I do, so those are shared.

  • Josh says:

    Attention streams can be useful. The Sidenotes are a great example: noahbrier.com is intended to provoke thought and conversation about new media, art, and their effects on business. Since Noah has something worthwhile to say about these things (or at least we all seem to think he does ;-) ), it stands to reason that following his attention stream on these subjects may yield something worthwhile as well.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand the use of Last.fm or NowReading or those other widgets you can stick on the side of your blog. I had one for a while that showed whatever I was listening to on iTunes, and I finally took it down because, honestly, who cares?

  • candice says:

    Now, I finally got around to hooking last.fm into my mp3 players (the ipod sync, it sucks functionally due to the last.fm protocol, but that’s a nerd rant) but I don’t do sidebars. I find it interesting to dig through mine and my friends’ music; finding things to try out or that had been forgotten. Same for delicious’ network feature, good stuff. It’s also funny when four friends post the same link.

  • Noah Brier says:

    I’m not such a big fan of the last.fm sidebar thingy either (as witnessed by the lack of it on this site). However, I do really like the features last.fm offers. The radio is pretty amazing and accurate, as are the recommendations and new discoveries you can make by clicking around to people with similar profiles.

    As for Josh’s question on who cares? It’s a good one. I think there are always going to be different groups that care about different information. I have friends with whom I have much more in common musically than in our reading habits. The same goes for movies and other possible attention streams, I think.

  • Josh says:

    Well, I wrote Who cares? but it probably would have been better phrased as What’s the point? Why are we so fascinated with broadcasting what information we’re consuming and with seeing what everyone else is consuming? Is it just another kind of entertainment? Is it the equivalent of hoping someone comments on what great books you have on your shelf or what a great CD collection you have? I dunno, if you guys are anything like me, you own books you haven’t read, albums you haven’t listened to more than maybe once, DVDs you never watch. So with all that stuff to consider, why are we so interested in everybody else’s? Suddenly our own diversions aren’t diverting enough—we have to be diverted by other people’s. ;-)

  • range says:

    I never really got into that whole last fm thing. I do enjoy the links, there is always something interesting in there. I don’t remember how I found kottke, but his linkage rocks, always these interesting stories.

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