DISTRACT seminar with Olivier Driessens

The in/visibility – in/attention complex: from collapse to intersection

Although visibility and attention have become central categories in the social sciences, their interrelationship is unclear and requires further theoretical consideration. Some scholars discuss visibility in ways as if attention is naturally following—or not in the case of invisibility—, while others simply collapse both visibility and attention into either of those single categories. This leads to not only analytical confusion, but also a disregard of the different structures, agents and mechanisms that produce in/visibility and in/attention. Further, it produces sometimes rather simplistic linear thinking about the potential consequences of either visibility or attention, such as (mis)recognition and power. In response, I argue that visibility and attention are ontologically distinct categories that should be studied in tandem empirically. To improve the study of their varied interrelationships, I present the in/visibility-in/attention model. This model helps to map the different empirical manifestations at the nexus of in/visibility and in/attention and to take the dynamics of both in/visibility and in/attention equally seriously when studying a range of phenomena including privacy, distraction, provocation, celebrity or cancel culture.

Olivier Driessens is Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen.

The seminar is open to the public via the following Zoom link: https://ucph-ku.zoom.us/j/61844378789