The Attention Economy

“The Attention Economy” by Jon Wozencroft of Touch, United Kingdom, has been announced as a keynote to be presented at The European Conference on Arts, Design & Education (ECADE2022), on-site and online from the University of Porto, Portugal.

To participate in ECADE2022 as an audience member, please register for the conference.

The presentation will also be available for IAFOR Members to view online. To find out more, please visit the IAFOR Membership page.


The Attention Economy

The attention economy was first theorised by political scientist Herbert A. Simon in 1971, sensing that the tendency towards information overload would create paralysis. “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients”, he wrote. “Attention transactions" would replace financial transactions as the focus of our economic system, and especially in the worlds of politics, advertising and social media, so it came to be.

Intangible factors became paramount to the processes of promotion and distribution, namely immediacy, personalisation and free accessibility. "Attention economics" forms a potential consumer's attention as a resource – advertisers follow a model they called AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Attention is therefore the first stage in the process of converting non-believers and non-consumers. There is no time to digest, only to react, or not.

Progressively this directive takes over all aspects of communication, bringing us to the current conditions of widespread disinformation and its supposed remedy, the digital detox. If “ignorance is bliss”, in its latest guise, ignorance becomes essential for maintaining a certain level of mental health.

Disinformation fosters conspiracy theories, anxiety, incredulity, with the dangerous outcome that nobody believes anything anymore, or could that be the opposite?... Extremism emerges as the only way of attracting attention.

How does this impact upon design education? The very strategies that are deemed necessary for teaching and learning might also be accelerating a mental health crisis that should have no place in contemporary pedagogy.

Speaker Biography

Jon Wozencroft
Touch, United Kingdom

Jon WozencroftJon Wozencroft started Touch in 1981/2. The intention was to extend the scope of a record label by combining music publishing with the level of curation afforded to fine art, producing a series of audiovisual productions, and the chance to collaborate with New Order, Wire, Joseph Beuys, Cabaret Voltaire, Chris Watson, Mika Vainio, and Fennesz amongst many others.

In the 80s and 90s, Wozencroft worked with Neville Brody on book and exhibition projects, leading to FUSE, one of the first magazines to critically engage with digital culture. In 2012, Taschen published a full documentation of the project, From Invention to Antimatter.

His photography and design work has appeared in publications including Fax Art, Merz to Émigré and Beyond, Shapeshifters, and Cover Art By. He was the publisher of Vagabond (magazine co–edited with Jon Savage, 1992), and the editor/designer of Joy Division's Heart and Soul box set in 1997. In 2005–2007, he co–curated the re-releases of Joy Division's back catalogue and participated in Grant Gee's documentary film on the group’s enduring impact.

Since 2007 he has been art director for Wire, whose 17th LP Mind Hive was released in 2020.

A book of his work, Touch & Fuse, was published in 1999 by the University of Porto, and in 2017, Touch Movements documented his photography and curation of Touch. Liquid Music, a collaboration with Christian Fennesz is one example of moving image work that has been showcased at the BFI, Tate Britain, Sonar, Transmediale, Avanti, and numerous other festivals.

He taught at the Royal College of Art from 1994–2019, specialising in the impact of sound and moving image on design practice. His research with Paul Devereux investigates the power of sound in prehistory with the focus on Preseli, Wales, source of the Stonehenge bluestones:

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