Attention Economy UP260

Attention economy is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems. According to Matthew Crawford, "Attention is a resource — a person has only so much of it."

In this perspective Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck define the concept of attention as:

“Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act.” (Davenport & Beck 2001, p. 20)

As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention becomes the limiting factor in the consumption of information. A strong trigger of this effect is that the mental capability of humans is limited and the receptiveness of information is hence limited as well. Attention allows information to be filtered such that the most important information can be extracted from the environment while irrelevant details are left out.

Software applications either explicitly or implicitly take attention economy into consideration in their user interface design based on the realization that if it takes the user too long to locate something, they will find it through another application. This is done, for instance, by creating filters to make sure viewers are presented with information that is most relevant, of interest, and personalized based on past Web search history.