Information flow and attention

danah boyd writes an insightful essay for UX Magazine, Streams of Content, Limited Attention, which examines the change from a broadcast information landscape to a networked one and its implications. She identifies four core issues:

  1. Democratization
  2. Stimulation
  3. Homophily
  4. Power

About democratisation, for example, she says:

Switching from a model of distribution to a model of attention is disruptive, but it is not inherently democratizing. This is a mistake we often make when talking about this shift. We may be democratizing certain types of access, but we’re not democratizing attention. Just because we’re moving towards a state where anyone has the ability to get information into the stream does not mean that attention will be divided equally. Opening up access to the structures of distribution is not democratizing when distribution is no longer the organizing function.

This is a really important essay, full of thought provoking nuggets. I don’t really want to boil it down to a soundbite, because this is a complex subject and to give you a two sentence summary would be to do it and danah a disservice. I think, though, this is going to be one of those essays I’m going to have to read and reread until its implications – which are not always obvious – have fully sunken in.