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NECC and the Attention Economy

Lots of folks are reflecting on their NECC experiences.  The reactions vary.  Scott’s bullish, while Sheryl is not so sure.  Also, towards the end of the conference, there were LOTS of tweets about brains hurting and brains shutting down.  Ewan, using the work of Chris Craft, even wrote about this seeming cognitive overload.

My guess is that we’re all struggling with living and learning in an attention economy in the digital world.  As I’ve written before, I don’t know a whole lot about “Attention Economics,” but according to Wikipedia, Herbert Simon wrote that:

…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it (Simon 1971, p. 40-41)

Let me repeat that one part: a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information…

Simon wrote that in 1971; a very different time.  So, further down on the Wikipedia site, it says:

According to digital culture expert Kevin Kelly, the modern attention economy is increasingly one where the consumer product costs nothing to reproduce and the problem facing the supplier of the product lies in adding valuable intangibles that can not be reproduced at no cost. He identifies these intangibles as:[1]

  1. Immediacy – priority access, immediate delivery
  2. Personalization – tailored just for you
  3. Interpretation – support and guidance
  4. Authenticity – how can you be sure it is the real thing?
  5. Accessibility – wherever, whenever
  6. Embodiment – books, live music
  7. Patronage – “paying simply because it feels good”, e.g. Radiohead
  8. Findability – “When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention — and most of it free — being found is valuable.”

Undoubtedly, much of the information was immediate, accessible, and findable.  Ustream, CoverItLive, etc.;I mean the backchannels seemed to begin before the conversations/presentations started.  Thus, there was value from that standpoint.

For me, though, the personalization aspect was missing.  I’ve written about how little focus there was on educational leadership and the nearly complete absence of dialogue on issues of equity and social justice.  Thus, ISTE, as a supplier of a product, did not provide those intangibles for me through NECC.  This detracted from the total value of NECC for me.

Also, I think the spector of consumerism made it all less authentic than it needed to be.  At our hotel, each day, some vendor dropped off at our rooms a copy of something called “The Ed Tech Show Daily.”  It was not much more than a glossy accumulation of very large advertisements.  Each ad promoted the “program” or “product” that’s the “best.”  “Company X is the nation’s leading XXXX…”  “Product Z is the #1…in schools…”  I can’t even begin to comment on the exhibit hall.  As Kelly writes, with language like that, how can we be sure it’s the real thing?  With so much promotion going on, authenticity is hard to find.

Finally, I think we’re all having to do our own interpretation of the product that is NECC.  ISTE did not really provide that intangible along with its product.

For me, then, I’m interpreting NECC as a product that ISTE offers along with the intangibles of immediacy, accessiblity and findability.  But, the information was so immediate and accessible that I, for one, did not allocate my attention efficiently.  Furthermore, now we’re all having to personalize and interpret it for ourselves (what does ALL this MEAN for ME?).

I’m wondering now, given all of the critiques of Edubloggercon, if we might consider holding something of that sort (something more unconference-y) AFTER NECC as a space for reflection, interpretation and meaning-making.  I suppose many of us are doing that through our blogs, but I crave some unplugged f-2-f time with edubloggers in particular about all that went down at NECC.  What about you?

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