Michael Goldhaber (1997) explains the internet to be “not only abundant, but overflowing,” in other words an economy that runs on information as humans are able to earn money through the distribution and management of online content. Goldhaper (1997) notes how online information competes for our attention because of the vast amount available, our attention metaphorically flows through the internet when we are speaking to someone else, for example via Facebook chat, email etc.
When I watched The Social Network in 2010, I became fascinated with the makeup behind Facebook – the amount of world-wide users, growth of the company and its social impact. I went straight home from the cinemas and Googled: ‘total active Facebook users’ – the figure was 550 million users. It’s been over a year and a half since I first watched that movie and the user figure is now over 800 million (Facebook 2012), this made me venture off to Google (2012) where 24,770,000,000 results came up after searching the word ‘Facebook’. This made me think of Goldhaber’s (1997) “information economy” and Howard Rheingold’s (2011) Mindful Infotention theory – How can one person possibly source the Facebook page of information (out of 24 billion plus results) that they are seeking and how much attention pertains to this?
Answer: It comes down to infotention, an individual must use their “mental ability” (Rheingold 2011) to narrow down their search through the online archive.
Rheingold (2011) explains Infotention to be the “psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters”. Basically, Infotention assists us to use our intellectual skills to decide what information on the internet is worth paying attention to and what should be discarded.
The ‘psycho’ part (of “psycho-social-techno skill”) I interpret to refer to the physiological function of our brains, we must sharpen our “mental ability to deploy (oranise) the form of attention appropriate,” (Rheingold 2011) and needed when filtering online media.
The ‘social’ refers to our online activity with others through social media; here we are given “recommendations [by other humans/friends] that make it possible to find fresh and useful signals amid the overwhelming noise of the Internet” (Rheingold 2011). For example, over social media sites such as Facebook “where attention and relational technologies develop via social networking,”(Kinsley 2011) we connect to friends and follow their posts. Therefore making it easy for an individual to “find fresh and useful” (Rheingold 2011) information through clicking on a friend’s Facebook post because the information is recommended. Furthermore, this exchange of information over the platform of the internet helps build social relations.
‘Techno’ refers to the technological aspect, the use of “information filters from online tools like persistent search and RSS is the external technical component of information literacy” (Rheingold 2011) – for example Google provides a ‘refine search’ option allowing for the individual to enter detailed descriptions of what they are looking for in order to narrow the search results. If we merge the physiological, social and technological skills together it becomes much easier to filter online media content – which is what Infotention is all about.
Facebook 2012, accessed 31 March 2012, < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book_reader>.
Goldhaber, M 1997, Attention Shoppers!, Wired Magazine, accessed 31 March 2012, <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>.
Google 2012, accessed 31 March 2012, <https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=facebook&oq=facebook&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=hp.3..0l10.1637l2465l1l2688l8l8l0l1l1l1l315l1750l0j2j3j2l7l0.frgbld.&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=1e4575b7dd61de50&biw=1093&bih=521>.
Kinsley, S 2011, Revisiting Stiegler’s understanding of Technicity and Attentio, weblog, accessed 31 March 2012,<http://payingattention.org/2011/11/02/revisiting-stieglers-understanding-of-technicity-and-attention/>.
Rheingold, H 2011, Mindful Indotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters, weblog, accessed 21 March 2012, <http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/09/01/mindful-infotention-dashboards-radars-filters/%3E>.