Attention as experience

January 15, 2019

Attention economy is a word which rose to prominence in the digital era. Digital world and its numerous tools and applications thrive on people ’s attention. There is a battle for attention everywhere. According to this view, attention is the most valuable resource now and whoever is able to grab it maximum win the game.  The online platforms are made in such a way that we get hooked and become the product as well as the consumer. In an interesting article in Aeon, Dan Nixon analyse two aspects of attention and tells why it is very important that we understand the importance of attention well. Attention is not merely a  resource to be traded but something which connects us to the world also. According to him, attention is the way we freely explore the world without any particular agenda.

Nixon talks about what British Psychiatrist  Iain McGilchrist described as two ways of looking at the world by two sides of the brain.  In one way, the left hemisphere of brain divide everything presented before it into components and analyse and categorise so that it can be used afterwards. On the other hand, the right hemisphere is after an exploratory mode.  It has no specific agenda. It does not worry about the time spent.  It sees things in its fullness. You need such a mode to appreciate the people, nature and works of art around. There is no consideration of  utility here . According to Nixon, this consideration of attention as  experience is what give us the broadest possible experience of the world.    Here the problem now is the way our attention as experience is crowded out by attention as resource fixation.  We are living every minute amidst a thousand stimuli which are after our attention. This obviously chokes us from looking at the world realistically. Imagine journeys these days. How many occasions do you get to talk to people sitting with you? What happens is that as soon as people grab a seat they reach out to their phones and their attention is no longer available for anything else. Most of them may not even look outside their vehicles also.  It is this battle we have to live with. Here Nixon exhorts us to be proactive and to claim our time for exploration away from the digital one. There is an urgent need to reach out to things around us to feel, touch and smell the same. Our lives are not only meant to offer  attention online but to be devoted for experiencing this world in all possible ways too. You may read Dan Nixon here for a full treatment of what we discussed above.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    January 15, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    How apt is this article in our days ! At times , this attention seems to be the only stimuli for all we are exploring . But , except for the professional front ,I am happy to have the right hemisphere of my brain being more active than its counterpart.

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