Yves Citton, The Ecology of Attention
What does it mean to actually pay attention to something? Attention defines what we look at and care about and thus, it precedes every collective and individual action.
In recent times, the subject of attention has often been discussed in connection to the attention economy, its mechanisms of monetization and means of control. Where is attention directed? Who pays attention to what, why, and for how long?
But the more technological development reshapes the way our attention is structured, the more we realize that there are many limitations to this approach—or rather that there are many modes of attention and that they are consequentially different in their nature.
According to cultural theorist Yves Citton, understanding this phenomenon as an “ecology” of attention means seeing attention as situated within its constitutive conditions and something that is collectively organized and valued.
In his approach, attention can never be under the command of an intentional self, as it must always be understood within its interdependencies, irrespective of whether it is articulated on a collective (media), joint (real-time and in mutual interactions), or individual level.
Viewing attention through this lens allows us to rethink the transactional logic of the attention economy in terms of its infrastructure, providing a better understanding of how attention value is shaped, and who the actors are that form and profit from it. Hopefully, by becoming aware of these mechanisms, we are also able to figure out how to distribute this increasingly scarce commodity with more agency, how to resist certain patterns, and how to act differently.
What you see before you here is an attempt to experiment with the documentation of the performance-exhibition series “Ecology of Attention” in the form of a digital publication.
It is an invitation to explore with us the works that were presented. Some contributions collect the traces that the performance left—some make use of a different medium, some attempt to translate shared live experience in a way that can be accessed by a reader individually and independently from whether it took place in real life or digitally, and some are included in the publication in their entirety.
As we were looking back at the works that were a part of this current research cycle, we realized that there are many correlations and overlaps in terms of the form and—in what ultimately became a special focus for this edition—between the different modes of attention that they employ or try to elicit.
Alongside the works that were presented during the performance exhibitions (see the map section for information on all the contributors), the publication includes five new commissioned texts by Julia Bell, Cru Encarnação, eeefff collective, Dina El Kaisy Friemuth, and Susan Ploetz. We have invited them to host one chapter each and to provide either a theoretical or an artistic take on its thematic focus.
The chapters below offer a networked grid rather than a rigid systematization of the works according to various types of attention. Their titles—primarily inspired by Citton's terminology—also serve to provide poetic guidance through this mesh, allowing the works to encounter each other in the new constellations.
Recognizing that the proposed system is subjective and by no means pretends to be exhaustive, we invite you to play with it; to use different keywords, try out different modes of reading, and try to assemble your own filtering system.
- PRODUCERBen Mohai
- GRAPHIC DESIGNAdrienn Császár
- Light DesignerSanja Gergoric
- Sound designerBátor Tóth