In my reading of this last year, I ran across the idea of the attention economy. My memory is faulty but I am pretty sure if was in a book by Colin Lankshear but is not an idea that has it’s origin with him. The gist of it is that we are no longer in an economy dictated by supply and deman as the supply of possible things to consume far out strips the demand for these things, but now it is an economy of attention. The one (company, individual) who gets the most attention wins (succeeds, makes the most money, has the most influence).
The idea of the attention economy struck with full force as I listened to CBC radio this evening. The program dealt with the YouTube video “Bride wigs out”. The video was posted on Youtube and within weeks (days?) had had milllions of hits. The video it turns out was a ‘short’, a video produced by Unilever with the specific purpose of setting the meme “wig out” into the public consciousness. The radio show debated its effectiveness and its morality. One of the commentators said that it was an old-fashioned idea that there is a difference between private, personal space and public economic or commerical space. He mentioned that for young people in MySpace, the world is a mash of items – some cultural, some commercial, some personal and the dividing lines are blurred.
I believe he is right and I am frightened by it. We are losing or have lost, public non-commercial spaces. The public bus is splattered with advertising inside and out, personal vehicles sport the advertising of radio stations and small business, public easments can be rented for large signs built of flowers or painted on the grasses. Where do we get to go to be unsolicited as consumers?
I am a person. I am not a consumer or producer above all else. I want to take a stand for slogan free spaces. I see a real need here for advocacy and education. Can we as a society say no to ‘guerilla advertising’? Can we say no to overt advertising? Every concert hall, every sport arena is a sponsored place. My Luddite is screaming here. How do we teach about this?