Playing Into the Attention Economy

“Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” So wrote the philosopher Simone Weil in Gravity and Grace, a book that compounds her aphorisms and notes, most of which contend with a search for spiritual purity. Gravity and Grace was published posthumously in 1947, well before the advent of the term “attention economy,” which emerged over twenty years ago and refers to the imbalance between the massive amount of information available on the internet and the limited amount of attention (and time) humans have to offer. In 2019, this disparity is more pronounced than ever: practically every online media platform is designed to apply the logic of scarcity to our minds, to treat our attention as a commodity to be harvested and manipulated. One of the cruel paradoxes of modern life is that the companies that abuse our attention treat is as much more precious than we do.

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