Nov 222006


How (Not) to Study the Attention Economy: A Review of The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information” (by Richard A. Lanham) is now out. I recommend my review as important for understanding the Attention Economy and how to study it.

  2 Responses to “My review of Lanham's book now out”

  1. I just read the paper. Quite nice, primarily for your discussion of your own work, since you pretty much devastated any reason to give any further attention to Lanham.

    You also both corroborated and clarified a variety of issues that I also had with discussion of post-industrial society and the broadening of the service sector to include just about everything people do these days. Your brief discussion put some things in place for me.

    Sorry to hear about your disappointment with Foucault. Unfortunately I haven’t worked with that aspect of his thinking but found much of use in Discipline & Punish and related works. Since you’re so thorough, I know you wouldn’t diss him without having studied him but your brief synopsis strikes me as quite similar to the criticisms I hear of work with which I’m more familiar from those who either give him superficial readings or willfully misread his work.

    But, like I said, all else was quite excellent and I look forward to reading more of your writing on this topic.

  2. Actually, w.r.t. the passage on Foucault: I believe you’ve mis-identified the “silly Frenchman” to whom Lanham alludes. It was Roland Barthes who published “The Death of the Author” in 1967, which was critiqued by Foucault in his 1969 essay “What Is an Author?”. Both men influenced each other greatly, of course, and various post-structuralists treated notions of identity and authorship in all kinds of different ways, so it’s hard to say for certain to whom Lanham refers. Also, I have only read your review, not Lanham’s book itself, so perhaps the context makes it clear that he’s talking about Foucault, not Barthes; but on the basis of your quotation, I suspect that he means Barthes.

    Another possible mis-attribution in your review (not to pick nits, you understand, but this is the attention economy, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go without his or her fair share of posthumous attention): all of the citations I can find online for “Your theory is useless; it’s not even wrong” attribute it not to Niels Bohr, but to Wolfgang Pauli. (Again: perhaps you know better.)

    A third point: I worry a bit about your characterization of “style” and its centrality to Lanham’s analysis; it seems at times that your disagreement on this point may be purely semantic.

    All in all, a fascinating review. It helped me to bring your own work into sharper focus.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>