A Kinder, Gentler Attention Economy

I should be prepping for the NWACC keynote. — it’s in a couple hours. But of course in going over my notes and reading some recent posts (particularly this one by Bonnie Powers) I suddenly doubt the route I’ve chosen into my subject (which is, of course, federated wiki).

Why? Because I talk about the societal implications of using the current breed of software, how our news-pegged attention economy fixation causes us to miss important ideas and shuts out opposing voices and minority opinion. And that’s stuff that’s really important to me.

But the real reason that I go out and plug federated wiki — the idea-too-big-to-get — is that using it has given me my brain back. I’m engaged with ideas again, not just personalities. Writing in my fedwiki journal gives me the space I need to think without worrying about how interesting I’m being, whether I contributing something new to the conversation. It gets my head out of the stream for a bit. It feels nice, like a personal library of slightly musty books on a beautiful rainy afternoon.

Maybe if a million people were using Federated wiki that feeling would disappear. Maybe I’d get addicted to forked pages, extensions, the like. Maybe having a thousand people on my feed would recreate the self-consciousness that exhausts my introvert self.

Maybe. But if there’s even a chance we could make the future less of the conversational pigpile that forms Twitter or the personal exhibitionism of Facebook and Instagram, we should pursue it. Federated wiki provides the routing and discovery architectures of current social media. But it also has a place for quietness. It allows one to attempt to break out of time, to see rather than react.

If I could somehow transfer that experience to people, these presentations would be a breeze. As it is I’ll just be talking about smaller things, like saving society from nuclear war and finding cures for cancer.

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