Your Attention Please 9/10

We love our phones.

App developers create spaces online that we can’t resist.  They want us to “Stay, play and pay with our attention or personal data”. (Paul Kennedy, Ideas podcast)

The adoption of the smart phone was one of the most massive and ubiquitous technological uptakes in our history.  When we go from laptop to mobile phone, the keyboard and mouse are gone, and the browser and search engine are not really used much.  Writing  a lot of text is challenging, so we tend to be more focused on images and video, particularly inside apps.  These capture our attention.

According to Sue Gardner (formerly of Wikimedia Foundation), people are choosing apps because they are convenient, customized for the device, and therefore they can be designed to be a more pleasurable experience for users.

We trade our privacy for convenience, but this is how we monetize the internet.  Apps can collect far more information about users than the open web can. We are using the web in the way that technology companies are designing it for us, and that is not under our control when we are inside apps.

In a sea of information, though, the apps are arguably providing a service, sorting and personalizing the flow of information for us (Brodie Fenlon).  But then we are getting lost in our apps.  It’s an addictive activity, and companies use strategies for growth hacking – making people want to stay longer.

Sue Gardner: Apps give people exactly what they want, which is dangerous.  There is no “wholesome diet” of information.  There is no tough information to grapple with.  What gets attention gets more attention and snowballs.  Popular fake news is shared.

Apps also create a cycle of privilege.  We enter and pay with our data, which allows them to better meet our needs and keep us there, away from outside information, and making money for them.

Brodie Fenlon: Facebook favours sharability over public interest.  It favours scale over niche so local news is out.

People don’t see things that don’t share well, yet they are grabbed because they are getting what they like, so they are not taking the time to look elsewhere.  But this WORKS for us.  We are happy with this experience – even addicted to it.

And it’s our attention that is monetized over truth.  Buzzfeed reported that during the 2016 US election, Macedonian youth made money on grabbing our attention and producing clickbait, primarily for Trump supporters.

Craig Silverman on Buzzfeed


This model of monetizing our attention is very effective in intensifying and amplifying our beliefs, capitalizing on confirmation bias, and splitting us into a deeply divided society, where all we see is what we want to see, and what we already believe.

It’s a dangerous way for information to flow in a democracy.


All of the posts in this series can be found here:

3/10 – How the “smart phone” and mobile apps have changed the way we interact online

4/10 – Historical perspective – the co-created open web to corporately owned platforms

5/10 – Algorithms: What’s controlling what you see and read?

6/10 – Information Literacy: What will your lesson plan look like now?

7/10 – Videos and Images – From Facts to Feelings

8/10 – Popularity over Importance: Celebrity culture in a time of wicked world problems

10/10 – Escape Your [Filter] Bubble


Featured image by Agberto Guimares on Unsplash


CBC Ideas Podcast

The Truth About Post-Truth

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina! 


A caution about this post: I am a learner, not an expert.  

I have set out here to use my #10posts10days  (#10days10posts) challenge to explore this area that deeply interests me, in an open way that lets others see what I am learning.  If you know more than I do, please correct me if necessary, and share! If you have more questions, please post those in the comments too.  Let’s learn more together.

All of the posts in this series can be found here: You Live in a Bubble

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