The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our HeadsThe Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book. It gave a basic history of media and advertising, from newspapers to today. The main thesis is that news and entertainment was largely created to deliver consumers to advertisers. I’m sure some of the creators thought they were doing a public service (news) or being artistically creative (entertainment), but the bottom-line, financially, was all about delivering eyeballs to advertisements.

From the book:

“At bottom, whether we acknowledge it or not, the attention merchants have come to play an important part in setting the course of our lives and consequently the future of the human race, insofar as that future will be nothing more than the running total of our individual mental states. Does that sound like an exaggeration? It was William James, the fount of American Pragmatism, who, having lived and died before the flowering of the attention industry, held that our life experience would ultimately amount to whatever we had paid attention to. At stake, then, is something akin to how one’s life is lived. That, if nothing else, ought to compel a greater scrutiny of the countless bargains to which we routinely submit, and, even more important, lead us to consider the necessity, at times, of not dealing at all. If we desire a future that avoids the enslavement of the propaganda state as well as the narcosis of the consumer and celebrity culture, we must first acknowledge the preciousness of our attention and resolve not to part with it as cheaply or unthinkingly as we so often have. And then we must act, individually and collectively, to make our attention our own again, and so reclaim ownership of the very experience of living.”

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