The best sentences I read Sunday

In an economy of stuff, the laws of property govern who owns stuff.  In an attention economy, it is the laws of intellectual property that govern who gets attention.

The center of gravity for formal inquiry changes places too.  In an economy of stuff, the disciplines that govern extracting material from the earth’s crust and making stuff out of it naturally stand at the center: the physical sciences, engineering, and economics as usuallly written.  The arts and letters, however, vital we all agree them to be, are peripheral.  But in an attention economy, the two change places.  The arts and letters now stand at the center.  They are the disciplines that study how attention is allocated, how cultural capital is created and traded.  When your children come home and tell us that they have decided to major in English or art history, no longer need we tremble for their economic future.

That is all from Richard Lanham’s excellent The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information.  The truly discerning will in particular appreciate the merits of pp.39-40 in this book, but I am not going to give them away…

Comments

Whether we're in an "attention economy" or not, would you want _your_ children majoring in art history or English?
Sometimes things still seem as if we're firmly in an economy of stuff.

Hmm - but wouldn't majoring in marketing, communications, or something along those lines be more to the point? The arts and letters may well gain, but studying art history and then applying it to the attention economy seems like a very difficult task (perhaps analogous to applying insights from quantum theory to manufacturing).

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