Bookmarked The credibility of science is damaged when universities brag about themselves by Freelance AuthorFreelance Author (

About 25 years ago, it was predicted that attention would come to dominate the marketplace. The prediction was correct. Science is not immune to the “attention economy.” In fact, it plays an active role in it. However, the things that are seen as being of value to individual scientists or institutions, like media attention, are undermining public trust and devaluing science as a collective resource.

Adrian Lenardic and Johnny Seales argue that the rewarding of attention economy has corrupted scientific research. They explain how historically, scientists would distribute findings amongst their peers before going public with those that findings that were ‘breakthroughs’. Whereas these days the roles have been flipped. Results are firstly presented to public before going through the scrutiny of the scientific community. One of the particular challenges with this is that social media does not usually reward uncertainty and nuance.

Attention economy has changed the ecosystem. Results are now presented to the public as influential well before community assessment can take place. What often turns out to be small findings and/or non-reproducible results are hyped as significant enough to share with the public. The insatiable drive for attention leads to a framing of results in a way that downplays uncertainty, as well as viable alternative hypotheses. It also devalues studies that reproduce (or fail to reproduce) previous results.

This is something that I noticed with the release of pre-prints associated with COVID. For me this also highlighted my own deficiencies in regards to understanding of scientific research, but maybe that is a part of this wider change.

Bookmarked The approaching tsunami of addictive AI-created content will overwhelm us by Charles Arthur (Social Warming by Charles Arthur)

We’re unready for the coming deluge of video, audio, photos and even text generated by machine learning to grab and hold our attention

Charles Arthur maps the evolution of AI-created content until now and ponders where it might be heading. This is a useful reflection, touching on the rise of algorithmically organised sites, as well as apps and frameworks such as MidJourney, GPT-3 and GAN. Thinking about this, he has a stab at what might be next.

• You could hook up GPT-3 to MidJourney and get it to try incantations to produce pictures, and feed the output to GANs tuned to pick output that humans will like

• Once that’s working, try doing the same with the text-to-video generator hooked up to GANs tuned to pick output that humans will like

In the end, Arthur explains that the future is already here and is progressively taking shape around us.

All the disparate bits above might look like, well, disparate parts, but they’re available now (and that’s without mentioning deepfakes). The trees are here, and the forest might be starting to take shape. Here’s an example: a 40-page comic book about monsters, free for download (PDF), by Steve Coulson, in which all the images are drawn by MidJourney. It’s very, very impressive.

Bookmarked The Case for Making Classrooms Phone-Free by Tyler Rablin (EdSurge)

Some students are able to control their phone use, but as these devices have become more ingrained in everything we do, that number is dwindling … When we allow students to pick up their phones, even when we’re using them for learning activities, it’s too much temptation.

Tyler Rablin extends on his Twitter thread to unpack the decision to make his classroom phone-free. Although there are many benefits to having a phone in the classroom, Rablin argues that these do not complete with the challenge to our attention offered by a dopamine shot.

If my student’s goal is to be happy, or experience that dopamine shot, and the options are to get it immediately with their phone or to spend time and effort learning something new and challenging, they’ll probably opt for their phone because it’s easier. This compounds the fact that many students who haven’t been successful in school don’t actually believe they can have a positive experience with learning.

Rablin discusses the work of Kelly McGonigal and the life we want to live.

In “Willpower Instinct,” McGonigal discusses how willpower is not about saying no to the things you don’t want to do, but it’s about saying yes to the life you truly want to live.

My question is how banning devices actually supports students to learn to constructively live with smartphones? I wonder what happens when students enter the world beyond education? Are there any other productive strategies for supporting students? I also wonder about things such as smart watches too?

“wiobyrne,” in Algorithmically Plottable Emptiness – Digitally Literate ()

Replied to The Rebel Wilson affair reveals how inadequate the humble columnist is in the new empire of the celebrity god by Virginia Trioli (ABC News)

The celebrities own the presses now, we in the media just get the notifications.

Although not ‘celebrities’ in the traditional sense, it has been interesting to read and listen to TISM announce themselves once again. Same same, but different? Yes, they were seemingly communicating via a video call, an affordance not as prevalent 20 years ago, but overall things were still as they were. Focus on anything but themselves. Maybe there might be some further campaigns to come, but seemingly always on their terms.
Bookmarked The Books Briefing: Tim Wu, Mary Oliver, Hannah Arendt by Kate Cray (

Two years into a pandemic that has literally warped our brains, reclaiming concentration may seem like a tall order. But the literature of attention can offer lessons. Oliver’s essay collection Upstream models how to notice, and in Julie Otsuka’s novel The Swimmers, the titular characters turn to mundanity in the face of crisis, consumed by the rhythm of “stroke, stroke, breath.” And Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing is a vital reminder about the value of distractedness—so long as it’s mindfully embraced rather than forced.

Bookmarked Stolen Focus: Johann Hari explains how your attention has been stolen by Sean Illing (Vox)

Johann Hari on life in the most distracted time in human history and how you can reclaim your attention span.

Sean Illing speaks with Johann Hari about his book Stolen Focus. Hari argues that simply turning away from technology is fatalistic, because it is not going to happen. What needs to change is the actual technology itself:

I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley interviewing some of the leading dissidents there, people who designed key aspects of the world in which we now live. And some aspects of the individual attention component in this are now becoming well understood. It’s important to say, though, that the way big tech wants us to frame this debate is, are you pro-tech or anti-tech? And that framing induces fatalism because we’re not going to give up our technology.
The real question is, what kind of tech do we want and whose interests should it serve?

Hari provides two alternative models. One would be subscription based, like Netflix. The other is as a public utility:

I remember saying to Aza and many of the other people who argue this to me, “Okay. But let’s imagine we do that, what happens the next day when I open Facebook, does it just say, ‘Sorry guys, we’ve gone fishing”? And they said, “Of course not.” What would happen is they would move to a different business model. And we all have experience of two possible alternative business models. One is subscription and everyone knows how platforms like Netflix and HBO work.
Another model that everyone can understand is something like the sewer system. Before we had sewers, we had shit in the streets, we had cholera. So we all paid to build the sewers and we all own the sewers together. I own the sewers in London and Las Vegas, you own the sewers in the city where you live. So just as we all own the sewage pipes together, we might want to own the information pipes together, because we are getting the attentional equivalent of cholera and the political equivalent of cholera.

This reminds me of Eli Pariser’s argument that to mend a broken internet, create online parks

Bookmarked A Search Engine That Finds You Weird Old Books – Debugger by Clive Thompson (Debugger)

Last fall, I wrote about the concept of “rewilding your attention” — why it’s good to step away from the algorithmic feeds of big social media and find stranger stuff in nooks of…

Continuing the investigation in rewilding our attention, Clive Thompson has created a custom search engine using Glitch for finding weird books in the public domain
Bookmarked On the Internet, We’re Always Famous by Chris Hayes (The New Yorker)

Chris Hayes writes about the influence of television and social media on American discourse and celebrity culture, and about what happens when the experience of fame becomes universal.

Chris Hayes uses the super hearing ability of the fennec fox to paint a picture of life on social media.

Imagine, for a moment, you find yourself equipped with fennec-fox-level hearing at a work function or a cocktail party. It’s hard to focus amid the cacophony, but with some effort you can eavesdrop on each and every conversation. At first you are thrilled, because it is thrilling to peer into the private world of another person. Anyone who has ever snuck a peek at a diary or spent a day in the archives sifting through personal papers knows that. Humans, as a rule, crave getting up in people’s business.

But something starts to happen. First, you hear something slightly titillating, a bit of gossip you didn’t know. A couple has separated, someone says. “They’ve been keeping it secret. But now Angie’s dating Charles’s ex!” Then you hear something wildly wrong. “The F.D.A. hasn’t approved it, but also there’s a whole thing with fertility. I read about a woman who had a miscarriage the day after the shot.” And then something offensive, and you feel a desire to speak up and offer a correction or objection before remembering that they have no idea you’re listening. They’re not talking to you.

Borrowing from Alexandre Kojève’s discussion of the masters desire for recognition by the slave, Hayes suggests that the star desires recognition from the fan. However, as the star does not recognise the fan’s humanity, all they can ever receive is attention.

We Who Post are trapped in the same paradox that Kojève identifies in Hegel’s treatment of the Master and Slave. The Master desires recognition from the Slave, but because he does not recognize the Slave’s humanity, he cannot actually have it. “And this is what is insufficient—what is tragic—in his situation,” Kojève writes. “For he can be satisfied only by recognition from one whom he recognizes as worthy of recognizing him.”

I’ve found that this simple formulation unlocks a lot about our current situation. It articulates the paradox of what we might call not the Master and the Slave but, rather, the Star and the Fan. The Star seeks recognition from the Fan, but the Fan is a stranger, who cannot be known by the Star. Because the Star cannot recognize the Fan, the Fan’s recognition of the Star doesn’t satisfy the core existential desire. There is no way to bridge the inherent asymmetry of the relationship, short of actual friendship and correspondence, but that, of course, cannot be undertaken at the same scale. And so the Star seeks recognition and gets, instead, attention.

The Star and the Fan are prototypes, and the Internet allows us to be both in different contexts. In fact this is the core, transformative innovation of social media, the ability to be both at once.

In this sense, the ‘star’ can come in many shapes and sizes, it is for this reason that we all have the prospect of being ‘famous’.

This relates to Brendan Mackie’s discussion of podcasts and parasocial activity.

Bookmarked 9 Ways to ‘Rewild Your Attention’ – Forge by Clive Thompson (

How to inject more weirdness and randomness into the stuff you read and see

Clive Thompson follows up his post on rewilding your attention with some strategies for actually doing so:

  • Follow RSS feeds
  • Use Fraidycat for less frequent interests
  • Browse paper books
  • Read old books online
  • Explore discussion boards
  • Surf links from blogs
  • Use weird search engines
  • Poetry
  • Talk to people
Bookmarked “Rewilding Your Attention” – Clive Thompson – Medium by Clive Thompson (Medium)

To find truly interesting ideas, step away from the algorithmic feeds of Big Tech

Clive Thompson unpacks Tom Critchlow’s argument for going beyond the ‘inner ring of the internet‘. This is the algorithmic flattening of creative work to instead engage with the activity of rewilding our attention.

If you want to have wilder, curiouser thoughts, you have to avoid the industrial monocropping of big-tech feeds. You want an intellectual forest, overgrown with mushrooms and towering weeds and a massive dead log where a family of raccoons has taken up residence.

I feel that the apex predator reintroduced as a part of this rewilding exercise is the question of time and productivity. We worry so much about demands and deadlines, that we fail to celebrate the things we have already done? Is the problem with doom scrolling actually the doom of the algorithmic nature of the feed, rather than the serendipity of dipping in? Or are the two forever intertwined? Is the answer ‘Twitter social distancing‘ or a reimagining of how we consume and create?

As Thompson himself attests, one answer is building up your own feeds. This is something that I have discussed here:

I am not sure whether social media will go away, but with the questions being asked of it at the moment, maybe it is time for a second coming of blogs, a possible rewilding of edtech. The reality is that technology is always changing and blogging is no different. Whatever the future is, standards such as RSS and OPML will surely play there part.

I like how Doug Belshaw frames the challenge as being in part about extending your serendpity surface. For Belshaw, the question is whether you curate your feeds or are instead curated:

read more widely and don’t settle for the “free.” algorithmically-curated, filter bubble being created for you by advertising-funded services with shareholders. We should be encouraging learners to do likewise. Doing so may take money, it may take time, it may be less convenient, but our information environments are important.

Beyond feeds, books and searches, I am also interested in sites like The Forest which add a touch of the unknown too.

However, at the end of the day, the missing piece in the rewilding exercise is people actually writing in a public square together to somehow celebrate the collective weirdness. I guess I still live in hope.

Liked At best, we’re on Earth for around 4,000 weeks – so why do we lose so much time to online distraction? (

The most effective way to sap distraction of its power is to stop expecting things to be otherwise – to accept that this unpleasantness is simply what it feels like to commit ourselves to the kinds of demanding and valuable tasks that force us to confront our limited control over how our lives unfold.

Bookmarked How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain by Markham Heid (

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

Markham Heid discusses the importance of finding balance in our attention diet. He divides these activities into hard and soft fascinations.

Natural environments are just stimulating enough to gently engage the brain’s attention without unhelpfully concentrating it.
“[W]hat makes an environment restorative is the combination of attracting involuntary attention softly while at the same time limiting the need for directing attention,” wrote the authors of a 2010 study in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. Nature, they added, seems to hit that sweet spot.
On the other hand, activities that grab and hold our attention too forcefully — books, social interactions, pretty much anything on a screen — entertaining through they may be, are unlikely to recharge our brain’s batteries. “Unlike soft fascination, hard fascination precludes thinking about anything else, thus making it less restorative,” the study authors added.

This reminds me of Michael Easter’s ‘20-5-3’ Rule for engaging with nature.

It also has me thinking about something Jack Antonoff discussed in regards to relaxation and his interest in cooking videos.

The definition of relaxation is to enjoy something that fascinates you but does not inspire you.

I wonder where things like notifications and attention literacy fit within all this too?

Replied to a bit of friendly advice – Snakes and Ladders (

Here’s my suggestion: Assume that everything everyone says on social media in the first 72 hours after a news event is the product of temporary insanity or is a side-effect of a psychotropic drug. Write it off. Pretend it never happened. Only pay attention to what they say when three days have passed since the precipitating event.

Alan, this is one of the benefits I have found in following social media via RSS. I often come upon things long after the fact. This can also be strange though when you read a tweet a week later and reply. Often the conversation has long moved on. Kind of feels like being late to a party, but then maybe it was a party that was not necessarily worth attending in the first place?
Bookmarked Simone Weil’s Radical Conception of Attention (Literary Hub)

“Everyone knows what attention is,” William James famously declared in his Principles of Psychology. For those who are not “everyone,” James goes on to explain that attention is the “taking possess…

In an extract from The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas, Robert Zaretsky discusses about Weil’s concept of attention revolving around compassion and the divesting of ourselves.

Compassion, in contrast, means that I identify with the afflicted individual so fully that I feed him for the same reason I feed myself: because we are both hungry. In other words, I have paid him attention. It is a faculty that does not latch onto the other, but instead remains still and open … In order for the reality of the other’s self to fully invest us, we must first divest ourselves of our own selves.

For Weil, attention is about process, rather than a particular product or outcome.

Normally, when we pay attention to someone or something, we undertake what Weil calls a “muscular effort”: our eyes lock on another’s eyes, our expressions reflect the proper response, and our bodies shift in relation to the object to which we are paying attention. This kind of attention flourishes in therapists’ offices, business schools, and funeral homes. It is a performative rather than reflective act, one that displays rather than truly pays attention. This sort of attention is usually accompanied by a kind of frowning application—the very same sort, as Weil notes, that leads us to a self-congratulatory “I have worked well!”
For Weil, attention is a “negative effort,” one that requires that we stand still rather than lean in. The object of this kind of attention could be mathematical or textual, a matter of grasping a puzzle posed by Euclid or one posed by Racine. Whether we do solve the problem, argues Weil, is secondary. The going is as important as the getting there, if not even more so. “It does not even matter much whether we succeed in finding the solution or understanding the proof, although it is important to try really hard to do so. Never in any case whatever is a genuine effort of the attention wasted.” Scorning practices like memorization and dictation that impose the “right answers” upon students, she acknowledges that the practices she wished to instill in students were alien to schools in her own day (and they remain alien to most schools in our own day). “Although people seem to be unaware of it today,” she declares, “the development of the faculty of attention forms the real object and almost the sole interest of studies… All tasks that call upon the power of attention are interesting for the same reasons and to an almost equal degree.”

This reminds me of John Campbell discussion of ‘listening to help the other person understand’:

Professor David Clutterbuck, in a keynote at Positive2012, suggested that there are 5 different types of listening:

  • Listening while waiting to speak
  • Listening to disagree
  • Listening to understand
  • Listening without agenda/intent
  • Listening to help the other person understand

In a coaching context it is easy to see how 1 and 2 don’t belong. We can probably see the value of Levels 3 and 4 in coaching and leadership contexts but it is # 5 Listening to help the other person understand that can have the most impact in a coaching context.

It is interesting to think about this alongside debates about the attention economy.

Liked The Real Hunter Biden Story Everyone is Missing by zeynep (Insight)

In the 20th century, it is attention, not speech, that is restricted and of limited quantity that the gatekeepers can control and allocate. In the digital age, especially in countries like ours, there is no effective way of stopping people from publishing or talking about this story through traditional censorship—but there are many ways to regulate how much attention it gets.

This is an especially important consideration in the weeks leading up to a presidential election, with so little time left to allocate our attention to important questions. Given the decreasing time available, what are the important questions, and how much attention should they get, and how?

Replied to Notifications are interruptions (DailyInk)

For the past few months I’ve been turning off most notifications on my phone. I tend to keep my phone on silent most of the time. I still get banner notifications for a few things, but most of my notifications only go to my Notifications Center, they don’t pop up and interrupt what I’m doing. What that results in is a phone filled with red notification dots, every time I look at it. I know this would drive some people crazy, but I don’t mind.

This reminds me of a video I recently watched from John Oliver on push notifications.

Oliver argues that there are two things that should decide whether something should be shown as a push notification:

  • Is there something I should be doing differently?
  • Is this something I need to now?

More often than not, the answer is no.

This is also a topic that Doug Belshaw discusses:

Don’t accept the defaults! On the other side of that very engaging, colourful screen are weaponised machine learning algorithms who are not interested in you or your wellbeing. While it sounds a bit sci-fi and dystopian to say so, they’re interested in providing shareholder value to megacorps by selling your attention to advertisers who want to change your behaviour.

Put like that, why wouldn’t you want to increase your notification literacy and that of those around you?

Replied to inessential: Why I Listen to Podcasts at 1x Speed (

I’m in no hurry. I will never, ever be caught up on all the podcasts I’d like to listen to. So, instead, I just play whatever I feel like whenever I feel like listening.

I’ll miss things, and that’s totally fine. But, in the meantime, I get to listen to the human voice somewhat close to realistically, with its the natural human pauses, with its rhythms and flows relatively unmediated and natural. Its warmth and music means so much more to me than being caught up.

I am going to have to think about this.
Bookmarked Media Accounting 101: Appholes and Contracts by Craig Mod (Roden Explorers Archive)

Choose active media, set yourself up to succeed by building systems to cultivate positive habits, but most importantly: Take a second to think about the contracts you’ve entered into as you go about your day. Are those contracts you’re happy with? Did you realize you had entered into them?

Craig Mod shares some notes from a lecture he shared at Yale to 70 or so publishing CEOs, marketing, editorial, and PR folks on the topic of contracts:

It’s an essay about “contracts” — and I don’t mean the formal things we sign upon joining a company or getting a divorce, but the more implicit contracts we enter into with a piece of media, software, or an application. Contracts can become proxies for thinking about “media accounting:” What we gain or lose by engaging with different media and mediums. Consider this missive a little bit of Media Accounting 101.

It is about the agreements we make that we may not always be aware that we are making. This is another interesting examination about being informed.

Central to this discussion is attention and in particular James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.


Ben Williamson discusses MIT’s AttentivU designed to measure attention and nudge users.