Book Club: Economics of Attention

Book Club: Economics of Attention

Starting this week at Philosophy Matters, we’re going to be reading The Economics of Attention. Attention is something I’ve written about the importance attention before, and I think it’s a topic that’s important to philosophy. We need to have time to reflect if we’re even going to do philosophy. This book considers the importance of our attention in age of information overload:

If economics is about the allocation of resources, then what is the most precious resource in our new information economy? Certainly not information, for we are drowning in it. No, what we are short of is the attention to make sense of that information.

With all the verve and erudition that have established his earlier books as classics, Richard A. Lanham here traces our epochal move from an economy of things and objects to an economy of attention. According to Lanham, the central commodity in our new age of information is not stuff but style, for style is what competes for our attention amidst the din and deluge of new media. In such a world, intellectual property will become more central to the economy than real property, while the arts and letters will grow to be more crucial than engineering, the physical sciences, and indeed economics as conventionally practiced. For Lanham, the arts and letters are the disciplines that study how human attention is allocated and how cultural capital is created and traded. In an economy of attention, style and substance change places. The new attention economy, therefore, will anoint a new set of moguls in the business world—not the Ceos or fund managers of yesteryear, but new masters of attention with a grounding in the humanities and liberal arts.

Lanham’s The Electronic Word was one of the earliest and most influential books on new electronic culture. The Economics of Attention builds on the best insights of that seminal book to map the new frontier that information technologies have created.

If you’re interested, pick up a copy of the book and join us me and some of my classmates read and blog about it over the next few weeks.

Forward to Chapter 1.

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