DISTRACT Talk with Jelle Bruineberg
Attending in the attention economy
The aim of this talk is to investigate the notion of attention that underpins contemporary debates about the attention economy: what is it about the omnipresence of digital technologies that seems to make it difficult to attend to what is relevant? Much of the contemporary literature assumes that digital technologies bombard us with an overload of sensory information, making it difficult to apply scarce attentional resources to the relevant information. I will articulate a number of shortcomings of this view: it is difficult to quantify both attention and information, and it fails to provide a convincing account of distraction.
In the second half of the talk, I will then develop an alternative action-based account of attention in which the need for attention stems from the need to coherently organize activities. Using this action-based view, I will develop a more specific diagnosis about what it is about digital technologies that makes attending difficult: digital technologies change the layout of action possibilities in the environment, and thereby make it more difficult to coherently organize our activities.
Jelle Bruineberg started as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Cognition and Communication in July 2023. He studied physics, philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Amsterdam and received a PhD in 2018 for his dissertation on the philosophical implications of predictive processing. In 2020, he got awarded a Macquarie Research Fellowship to pursue a project on attention, and the way digital technologies mediate attention. He has been occupied with this question ever since, occasionally getting distracted by issues in embodied cognitive science, ecological psychology and the philosophy of predictive processing.