At the conference "The Hyperlinked Society" at the Annenberg School for Communication, Eric Picard of Microsoft asserted that with the exception of maintaining personal networks, people blogged for one of two reasons: fame or fortune. It seems to me that those motives propel most media makers, old and new. And the recipe for achieving either objective begins with attracting people's attention. Patterns of attention, in turn, establish the boundaries within which the economic and social consequences of the new media environment are realized. This essay invites the reader to think about the hyperlinked environment as a marketplace of attention. I begin with a brief description of market conditions, outline a theoretical framework for thinking about the marketplace, and then use that framework to explore two socially consequential patterns of public attention: fragmentation and polarization. The former addresses the overall dispersion of cultural consumption. The latter addresses the tendency of people to retreat into comfortable "enclaves" of information and entertainment. Finally, I'll suggest questions and concerns about a hyperlinked society that I believe deserve our attention. © 2008 by University of Michigan Press. All rights reserved.
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