How To Hack Attention When The Attention Economy Is Where The Power Is

Sometimes a random alignment of stories unexpectedly congeals around a topic. Like today. We found serval stories exploring the idea of how ideas spread. This Lit Hub story discusses the inherent trap of superficiality of translations.

Translators themselves can be said to traffic in words, sounds, images, and more; whether what is trafficked is tangible or intangible, it’s implied that what is bought, sold, and bartered is in any case commodified. When we think about traffic we also inevitably think about congestion, about impediments to smooth circulation—of vehicles, of course, but also, by extension, of ideas and things. While translations do cross borders, broadening our cultural knowledge as they present one language in the terms of another, they can also become an impediment to free communication.

This Smithsonian piece explores the sharing of scientific knowledge. English is the international language of science, but because of it, a lot of ideas don’t get the play they should.

More than half of the non-English papers observed in this study had no English title, abstract or keywords, making them all but invisible to most scientists doing database searches in English. “I think this issue is actually much larger than many people think,” Tatsuya Amano says.

But perhaps the most fascinating story is this by Danah Boyd who talks about thinking about information and power as something to be hacked. Don’t work inside the structures of the traditional information economy, figure out ways to hack the power structures – if the currency is attention, then figure out how to hijack attention and get everyone talking about what you want them to talk about.

Indeed, over the last 15 years, I’ve watched as countless hacker-minded folks have started leveraging a mix of technical and social engineering skills to reconfigure networks of power. Some are in it for the fun. Some see dollar signs. Some have a much more ideological agenda. But above all, what’s fascinating is how many people have learned to play the game. And in some worlds, those skills are coming home to roost in unexpected ways, especially as groups are seeking to mess with information intermediaries in an effort to hack the attention economy.