Like you, I’m paying attention to current events and trying to extract some kind of context and meaning. One thing is for certain, we’re drifting closer to the dystopian and depressing aspects of cyberpunk that William Gibson described close to forty years ago. One aspect of cyberpunk is something called out on Reddit last week, ‘the Attention age.’ Beyond the Information Age, the currency of our time is the public’s attention. Getting people’s attention has become a profession (Looking at you, influencers) and that’s contributing to social decline.
But what is ‘the Attention Age,’ and where does it come from? I found this discussion on Reddit and am passing it along. See what you think:
I think the first portion is why we’re seeing such a commodification of outrage.
People want to feel like they have a voice, that their opinion matters. They go on a platform that allows them to preach their opinions to the world, but are by-and-by ignored. They realize in reality that their opinions dont matter. They are one of thousands, one of millions. All braying for attention.
Disappointed then that, they focus on making their opinions so strongly expressed and central to their identity that they cant possibly be ignored. Outrage is a very self-righteous and self-affirming emotion. It places your point of view on a pedestal of unassailability.
Its saying, “this topic is so important to me it OUTRAGES me, and you need to pay attention because it should outrage you, too. And if it doesnt, then theres something wrong with YOU.” Nothing gets people attention better than them being challenged as deficient. Which is what each “outrage” type post/emotion does. What alot of those types of outrage posts seek more than anything else is reaffirmation that their opinion matters, that anyone else cares like they do. Or cares that they care.
Corporations are ran by people too, and those people have realized that those emotions can be commodified and profitized. Hence, outrage porn reporting, from either side. Intended less to educate or inform, but moreso to harness peoples preconceptions.
Below that, Mccoyed sums it all up in two sentences:
“This is why we need to move past understanding the current era as the ‘information age’ and understand it as an ‘attention age.’ Information isn’t the currency anymore, attention is.”
This terrifying, simple conclusion brings me back to what I was saying a few moments ago – our cyberpunk era, the Attention Age – is here now. All the pieces are coming together to create a world of ‘high tech – low life,’ with all that this implies. The overall construct of Cyberpunk was a neo-noir consideration of what life was like on the mean streets of the 21st Century. Little people trying to survive in the shadow of faceless, giant institutions. Unless we get our act together, this is exactly where we’re going as a society.
The future need not be so dim. We’ve still got the chance to build a beautiful future together. Some try to envision that with Solarpunk and I’m trying to find a careful middle ground with Mesh by talking about a Cyberpunk future where you CAN actually choose your own destiny.
But we aren’t there yet. We must reckon with our cyberpunk era, the Attention age, and give careful thought to where we are, where we’re going, and if we want to go somewhere better, how we’ll get there.
Think about it.