Attention Economy and Influence Metrics #Scio12

This Storify captures the online conversation and subsequent thoughts from the Attention Economy and Influence Metrics talk presented at the Science Online 2012 conference. The session was led by Lou Woodley (@LouWoodley) and Adrian J. Ebsary (@AJEbsary).


  1. The Attention Economy

    The session began with an introduction to the concept of "The Attention Economy" - how in an age of abundant information, it is important to be able to persuade others to notice your activities and so attention becomes the important currency of exchange.

    This concept was first introduced by Prof. Herbert Simon (Nobel Laureate in Economics):
  2. ... who wrote in 1971:
  3. Simon pointed out in his original paper, we already have the ability to measure attention as a function of time of gaze residence:
  4. An example of current technology for tracking gaze, which can produce visual gaze-tracking path maps, such as this one:
  5. Imagine what this technology will do, with a little bit of time? It would be simple to measure attention as a function of time per gaze residence on any set of pixels. Then we could start tracking units of attention, and determine where people were investing their attention.
  6. Adrian's point here comes from a specific paragraph in Cory Doctorow's book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (free online!!), where he outlines a reputation economy using a virtual currency known as the 'Whuffie' :

    "Dan moved to block the bedroom door. “Wait a second,” he said. “You need rest.”

    I fixed him with a doleful glare. “I’ll decide that,” I said. He stepped aside.

    “I’ll tag along, then,” he said. “Just in case.”

    I pinged my Whuffie. I was up a couple percentiles—sympathy Whuffie—but it was falling: Dan and Lil were radiating disapproval. Screw ’em."

    From Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow. Download for free here.

    Adrian: Notice in this passage, it is made clear that not only can Whuffie be given if someone feels positively about you, but it can be taken away when someone feels negatively about you.

    We could see functional gazetracking technology for regular use within the next five years. Using a cap/implants to scan your brain for your disposition on a regular basis is probably more like 10 years away. A reputation economy, in my opinion, could only follow on the heels of an attention economy.

  7. You can also check out another social media metric, the WhuffieBank:
  8. Now finally, to state why we think an attention economy is the most likely alternative economy that will emerge in the near future. Michael Goldhaber:

  9. By definition, economics is the study of how a society uses its scarce resources. And information is not scarce - especially on the Net, where it is not only abundant, but overflowing. We are drowning in information, yet constantly increasing our generation of it. So a key question arises: Is there something else that flows through cyberspace, something that is scarce and desirable? There is. No one would put anything on the Internet without the hope of obtaining some. It's called attention. And the economy of attention - not information - is the natural economy of cyberspace.
  10. And he goes on to point out, via Howard Rheingold, that one essential problem will be to decide where to place your investments: 
  11. In his online book Virtual Community, Howard Rheingold lays out two guidelines: "Rule Number One is to pay attention. Rule Number Two might be: Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention."