May 212007
 

You are reading this right now. I know you are.

That gives the impression that I am paying attention to you personally at the moment. But of course that is a mere illusion. Really I am not. I may know you, but I very well may not. I may know nothing about you other than that you are evidently reading this, or hearing it read, or perhaps you memorized it and are now reciting it to yourself. In any case, this is an example of illusory attention coming to you. It is the normal payoff for reading, for looking at a picture or watching a movie or TV show, listening to a record, reading a blog etc.

In the last case, you can make yourself known to the blogger, perhaps, by commenting. But suppose the blog is very popular. Then the writer may well be unable (or unwilling) to read every comment, especially if every reader comments. The attention to the reader in such a case remains illusory. The blogger might take illusion in that case to a further level by issuing some seemingly personal but actually automated reply. Any interactive website offers illusory attention in the same way.

Of course, on the web or off you may pay attention to the work of an author who died before you were born, Abraham Lincoln, say. Still you can hardly avoid some feeling that Honest Abe was speaking directly to you. Otherwise how could you align with him; how could you pay attention? Again what you actually get has to be illusory attention. There is just no way to make it real.

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