Aug 232006

I would like to find a suitable, general. short pair of words for (a) a person paying attention to (b) a person receiving attention. I have often used the words “fan” and “star” to mean something a bit similar, but not the same. By a fan I mean someone who over time receives less attention than she pays, while a star receives far more attention than she pays. The more general words I am now seeking would describe a more momentary state of affairs, where there may or may not be rough overall equality between the two participants.

The pair of words I am looking for ideally will suggest that paying attention is an active process. Also, attention can go to a person through his physical actions or expressions in any medium — whether dancing, drawing, writing, acting, playing music or a game, buliding or cooking. Thus I am not completely happy with some pairs I have come up with: viewer and doer; auder (a word I just coined) and actor; movee and mover; grokker and squawker; payer and player.

The contest is either to come up with a better pair, or to say which of the above pairs works best, or both. Entries will be judged on the basis of fitness to the criteria. Neatness, originality and aptness of thought won’t hurt. No boxtops necessary. Decision of the judge (me) will be final.

The prize will consist of being named winner in this space. If your pair of words is chosen and the study of attention economics takes off, you might achieve minor immortality at no extra cost.
The contest will end when there is a winner, or when the judge gives up.

  11 Responses to “Announcing A Contest”

  1. a) captive audience
    b) ‘Sun King’


  2. David,
    Thanks for your contest entry, but I evidently didn’t explain well enough. I am looking for words to describe (a) someone temporarily paying attention to (b) someone else, say in ordinary discourse, distinctly not the status of a captive audience and a Sun King! Normally, attention is unconstrained by force, held by a quite possibly temporary sort of mental alignment.

    That is the basis for a theory of attention of use in considering an attention economy, but to the best of my knowledge we have no words in common use in the English language to describe the different members of this pair.


  3. a) mindgiver
    b) mindtaker

    or, alternatively, replace “mind” with “brain.”

  4. I have a few so here goes

    1. A)
    2. A) ogler B) embracer

    too lame???

  5. I’ve been fixated on ‘heed’ ever since i read this post — for me it evokes deep attention, and I think heeder works, but I’m struggling with heedee :/












  7. I see no reason why you could not simply use the names in the basic communications model. Since the feild of communications is concerned with what occurs when someone is paying attention, and attention economics is concerned with who pays attention, why, and how much. It might be helpful for future synthesis if you used Sender and Reciever, or Source and Destination (Target), as used in the communications model. They fit all your criteria, Sender and Reciever convey an active participation, can be as long or as short a time as needed, and also convey no status.

    ~E.J. Tower

  8. Thanks for this thought.

    However, paying attention is often not directly part of an act of communication as normally construed. If I watch someone play tennis, that person is not “communicating” with me, yet my attention can be focused on her much as it would be for someone in conversation with me.

    There is also the possibility of a certain confusion. The recipient of attention (which is what is scarce and therefore desirable) is the Sender in the standard communications model. Etc.


  9. Good point. Thanks for your feedback. I have only just recently (3 days exactly) started reading up on Attention Economics after I picked up your lecture off O’Rielly Meida. It was very interesting. I will post again after I put some more thought into this, in a day or too.

    Thanks Again,


  10. Maybe a little bit too far-fetched, but what about:

    appetizer and taster (savor)? 😉

    (I´m an Austrian student, at the very moment writing about the Attention Economy)

    Eva-Maria D.

  11. There are some pairs of words that are already sometimes used this way:

    subject, object

    is a suitable pair from some branches of philosophy.

    Half-borrowing from medicine you could use:

    attending, observed

    If your theories have any sense to them you really want three terms, though, and you need to separate the object of attention from the party directing attention to that object. Perhaps:


    One who presents an object for attention is a presentor (and is not essential to the equation).

    You’re already in a heap of metaphysical trouble when you presume some singular thing, “attention”, being the behavior of a subject. If you really mean what you say — to focus the topic on deliberate attention to deliberate performances, then perhaps something radical like:


    If you allow attention to artifacts or phenomenon, so long as they come from some deliberate source:





    What a strange question. English is already rich with suitable terms and perhaps the difficulty here is a vagueness of the concept to be expressed?


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