The Internet and our Attention Spans

It seems like social bookmarking forces us to shorten our attention span even more, as we want to rate sites at a frantic pace. If we don’t rate sites, of course, no one will take our opinions seriously.

Yeah, I know – the irony is that obvious, and yet we seem to be oblivious to it. Exactly what is the general problem of the Web and attention span, though? I have argued that the Web has made us very good at some things: photography, chess, and even poetry. And to “make good” means to increase the attention given to each, to allow us to focus and concentrate and say something meaningful about each, at the least, if we’re not actually creating.

The question is how the culture of the web can be changed to make us more attentive as opposed to less attentive. At a base level, perhaps we can discuss incentives for each. The obvious incentive for being less attentive is that it accords very neatly with our notion of “right.” We’re all consumers, consumers even of gov’t (we can pick what laws we like by changing citizenship), and why shouldn’t every site built purposely try to hold our attention? Why do we have to read a 1000 word essay when some guy is offering Plato in 30 words and some colorful pictures? I mean, heck, I’m guilty of succumbing to this.

I think one way we could increase attentiveness, as bloggers or site masters, is to give incentive for very thoughtful comments, or comments that show a genuine appreciation. That would mean we need a way of showing those who don’t care to respond thoughtfully or properly, though, that in a deep sense, they’re not really welcome…

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