By Mary Harrington writing for UnHerd
The “attention economy” was first theorised by the economist Herbert Simon in 1971. He called attention to the “bottleneck of human thought” and argued that in a world where this was a scarce resource, the smart money focused on grabbing a slice of it. After all, you can have the best product in the world but if no one has noticed you exist, you’ll still sink without trace. Advertisers spend a great deal of money on being attention-grabbing. The boundary between PR, journalism and propaganda is blurry to say the least, and flourishes atop an immense ecosystem of opinion-havers. As a result, we don’t just have an attention economy. We also have an attention politics: a byproduct of the explosion of content that came with the transition to digital culture. In that politics, what gets noticed isn’t just a bottleneck on the way to commercial success; it’s also the gateway to political power.