The value of openness in an attention economy

Michael Goldhaber


Virtually all forms of openness can be motivated by the scarcity of attention, the lynchpin of the Attention Economy. This term, which I introduced previously, is often misunderstood as simply a variant of the money economy. Instead it is an entirely new system, which, I continue to argue, is fast becoming the dominant economy on the Internet as well as in the world as a whole.
A theory of how we pay attention to other humans suggests why receiving it is both desirable and difficult. Humans can absorb as much attention as can be obtained, which differentiates it from other sorts of scarce goods. The theory also suggests a typology of openness, permitting an analysis of the different forms addressed in this Conference, along with others, both existing and potential. In this context, it seems reasonable to speculate on how attention–economic activity manifested through openness may help lead to further dominance of this type of economy. Groupings based on and espousing openness eventually may come increasingly to replace profit–making firms and even non–profit institutions such as universities, while making the pursuit of money largely irrelevant.

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