Attention Economy

Profiting from convincing (or, perhaps more accurately, “manipulating”) people to pay attention. Big Social Media sites like Facebook are part of the attention economy: you pay nothing to use the site. In fact, you are the product; they sell your attention to advertisers, and therefore design their product to maximize their profits by manipulating you to spend more time on the site.

The attention economy is sometimes associated with:

  • loss of free will
  • loss of Privacy
  • psychological harm
  • algorithms that spread disinformation and foment discord

.. to varying degrees.

Not all social media sites participate in the attention economy; for instance, Mastodon and the Fediverse don’t.

How to Join the Fediverse and Cast Off the Attention Economy describes one potential step, among many, you can take to free yourself from these sorts of sites.

Recovering Our Lost Free Will Online: Tools and Techniques That Are Available Now outlines some other steps you can take.

Corey Doctorow’s essay

Corey Doctorow writes about this in his excellent article How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. It is really worth the read; here I pick out just a few quotes relevant to this topic:

He postulates that what Google, Facebook, etc. are selling is persuasion - that attention is a means to a goal for them. Thinking about the relationship between the attention economy to Privacy (“surveillance capitalism), he asks, “What if the voracious appetite [for data] is because data has such a short half-life – because people become inured so quickly to new, data-driven persuasion techniques – that the companies are locked in an arms race with our libmic system?”

He discusses Facebook – “Facebook is optimized for engagement, not happiness, and it turns out that automated systems are pretty good at figuring out things that people will get angry about… Rather than thinking of Facebook as a company that has figured out how to show you exactly the right ad… think of it as a company that has figured out how to make you slog through an endless torrent of argument even though they make you miserable, spending so much time on the site that it eventually shows you at least one ad that you respond to.”

His central claim, however, is that the biggest threat from big tech is that of monopoly, and that the rest tends to feed from there.

“There is no firm distinction between state surveillance and surveillance capitalism; they are dependent on one another.”


This was originally published as a post on my blog. This version is intended to be kept up-to-date with developments, and is edited from the original.

This started out at a post on my blog. This edited version is intended to be kept more up-to-date.

This started as a post on my blog. This edited version is intended to be kept more up-to-date.

Usenet, of course, originally ran over UUCP in quite a few cases. Since NNCP is quite similar to UUCP – in fact, you can map UUCP commands to NNCP ones – it is quite possible, and not all that hard, to run Usenet over NNCP. In fact, in a number of ways, it works better than Usenet over UUCP!

Technology that supposedly is designed to connect people to each other. Facebook, Twitter, and maybe Youtube are examples.

Mastodon is a Free Software, decentralized, global Social Media network. Unlike the other major ones, it is not a part of the Attention Economy, and generally has no ads.

“Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively.” - Wikipedia