This will be part 3 in a series of articles involving the concepts of slow-thinking and fast-thinking, attentionalism and non-attentionalism. The first article presented Alexander Bard’s ideas of the Internet Revolution. Bard meant that the emergence of Internet led to (is leading to) one of the greatest revolutions in mankind. This leads to many radical changes in the society, for example it is a time of ATTENTIONALISM***.
Here is a quote from the book Netocracy, written by Bard:
The rules will change, but the constant underlying message of the curators [a kind of masters of the netocracy] to their net-citizens will be simple and unambiguous: you can never network well enough, you can never be good enough at communicating, you can never let yourself rest, you must constantly be ready to jump, constantly ready to learn new things.
As opposed to this I presented Pierre Bourdieu, who was concerned by increasing superficiality in the new emerging society. In a following blog post I developed his views on the need for slow-thinking and the absolute need for time. Bourdieu held a famous speech in television about television, where he claimed that: ”television rewards a certain number of fast-thinkers who offer cultural ‘fast food’–predigested and prethought culture–”.
No doubt, the Internet has meant and means a radical change in the society. Things will never be the same again. But what I’ve been pointing out is that there are different ways to adapt. One strong trend seems to be that in this new society people assume that you need to become more easy-accessible, attentionalistic, short and concise rather than extensive and rigorous. In this article I want to help show that there are other alternatives. The Internet revolution may in fact lead to a promotion of the qualitative (extensive, rigorous etc), by the uprising of structures and organizations that effectively can benefit the non-attention-seeking. Below I show this by an economic analysis.
Fast-thinking and slow-thinking, attempting to outline some general characteristics
An attempt to outline some general characteristics:
FAST-THINKING, attentionalistic, easy to access, gives quick response (but doesn’t last for long),
Possible ways to associate in positive terms: Witty, sharp, enjoyable
Possible ways to associate in negative terms: Superficial, shallow, vain
SLOW-THINKING, non-attentionalistic, hard to access, gives slow response (but lasts for longer)
Possible ways to associate in positive terms: Deep, wise, reliable
Possible ways to associate in negative terms: Dry, boring, slow
This distinction between slow-thinking and fast-thinking is not meant as something fixed or clearly defined. It’s not meant to be applied for real life situations. It is more of a template, and real life situations aren’t that black and white. For me it’s mostly important to sketch some general outlines so you can see approximately where I’m getting at. As noted in earlier blog post, Bourdieu and Daniel Kahneman has also used the concepts of thinking fast and slow, and both of them use the terms in different ways than I do.
When the non-attentionalistic prevails, Bourdieu as an example
Is it possible for the non-attentionalistic to prevail over the attentionalistic? I’m sure it is. But also I think that we often are inclined to forget about this possibility. I think that Bourdieu himself, what he did and who he was as a person, can serve as an example. Bourdieu got known for being one who did not seek attention. He would often reject interviews and to appear on television, if the ones who wanted to interview him didn’t agree on the conditions he demanded. As I think is evident in his writings, Bourdieu didn’t try to charm or ingratiate people in main-stream media. Yet he would get both popular and famous. Now known as one of 20th century greatest sociologists. And as for example noted here by Craig Callhoun:
When [Bourdieu] died on January 23rd, 2002, Le Monde delayed publication by several hours so the front page could carry the news. It was the lead story on TV news in France (and other European countries) and ran with expressions of grief and loss from France’s president, prime minister, trade union leaders, and a host of other dignitaries and scholars.
How the non-attentionalistic can prevail over the attentionalistic, and how the Internet can change the conditions – an economic analysis
Consider for example selling and advertising. Imagine two companies, company A and company B, both selling a specific computer. One of the companies (A) spends a lot of money to make themselves seen and heard, while the other company (B) chooses to sell the computer for a cheaper price instead of spending money on advertising. Company A pays for advertisement in television, and they rent a store in the center of the city for expensive price but where many people pass by, while B has their store in some basement with low rent somewhere in the outskirt of town. So, both companies are selling the same product, but B sells the product for a cheaper price.
In the economists terminology we could say that to choose B would be the most rational choice for a buyer. But many would not know about B and thus choose A instead. But then, consider now the entrance of Internet and how Comparison shopping websites emerges. People start using these Comparison shopping websites, where all companies that sells the computer are listed, and then they easily notice that company B sells the product for lower price than company A. The attention-focused attitude of company A is here at danger, because the effort they spent on attention is of no use, and then they can’t compete with company B who spent their effort on price-optimizing. The Comparison shopping website makes it an open-ground-competition between company A and company B, where company B is advantaged.
I know it will be easy to read this text with the interpretation that the attentionalists are the bad guys (such as company A), while the non-attentionalists are the good guys (such as company B), however I want to stress that this is far from what I want to say. I’m sure that there will always be attention-oriented agents as well as there will be non-attention-oriented agents, and I don’t claim it is desirable to change that. My post is rather to point out that there is the non-attentionalistic path that still has potential, but which people tend to forget about.
Alexander Bard said “We ought to make revolution and hang all politicians who haven’t got any Twitter account” (he is of course not to be taken literary). This seems to me embrace the idea that all politicians ought to go more attentionalistic. As I see it, the microblog Twitter is an attention-oriented platform (limited to messages with a maximum of 140 characters), where a kind of slow-thinking is not able to exist. My counter-reaction is not: “Twitter is junk, let us boycott Twitter”, the counter-reaction is rather: “Look, there are also other ways to get recognition”. Twitter may be a great thing for some, but that doesn’t mean Twitter be a great thing for everyone.
The example with advertising and selling is not because I find it interesting to analyse how to make a profitable business, but rather I mean that it can have a figurative sense. If one tries to adapt in order to get attention, one is likely to fall behind those who focus on quality in certain senses. However, in order for the non-attentionalistic to stand a chance over the attentionalistic, some kind of organization is needed. The Comparison shopping website can serve as an example of such an organization. The reason Bourdieu could get so famous – despite his anti-attentionalistic attitude, is most probably also due to the help from organizations, such as a hierarchic and meritocratic system of education. Now the Internet can help provide new structures and organizations, where the non-attentionalistic may be benefited.
References and further reading
Nicholas Carr – The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember – This book has gotten wide popularity, speaking about dangers of Internet Revolution. I recently read it, and may write more on it later on.
(See earlier posts on this topic for more external links)