On Context, and Meaning

For all of the talk of the deficiencies of attention economy and data hoarding products it is important to state the other side of it. Those systems exist because of the actions of agents within them. By accepting (current grade of) collective systems of communication we’re selling our attention, and meaning short, and choose not to look at the balance sheet until much later.

How we direct attention is one of our most ethical decisions. Attention leads to awareness and often to action. Across all spheres of society – especially in my own, that of business – fierce competition exists to leverage a range of technologies to capture attention and influence action. Yes, corporate and political actors should be held to standards, but we cannot simply blame institutions for misleading individuals. In a society that aspires to be free, ultimate responsibility must lie with the individual. This challenge is eternal, but how it manifests changing rapidly

Attention in a Time of Plenty, Robert C. Wolcott

When examined through a market design lens gated systems (remote stationary databases + proprietary interface points) don’t leave a lot of space for the individual to exercise intentionality in generating meaning. 

I will go further to say that Gated Systems are deterministic in funneling human agency through narrow corridors.

This is more than anything else a communication issue. Unlike Shannon’s original intent, and very much in the interest of The Efficiency Machine the signals we share are flat. Mathematical, and not symbolic. We should remind ourselves that meaning is symbolic. 

When we ask brands, leaders and society to be purposeful, we should do the same. We would all be better off if we put value back into the meaning pool.

Published by Nitzan

I am a designer, writer and strategist with interest in machine learning, liminal thinking and complexity science. In my commercial work I help companies build innovative tools, design better qualitative processes, and lead that human machine collaboration with complexity in mind.

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