Fickle focus: Distraction, affect and the production of value in social media
The uses of social media can be seen as driven by a search for affective intensity translating as moments of paying attention, no matter how brief these instances may be. In the framework of attention economy, attention has been discussed as a valuable commodity whereas distraction, involving both pleasurable entertainment and dissatisfactory disorientation, has been associated with cognitive overload and the erosive lack of focus. By discussing clickbait sites and Facebook in particular, this paper inquires after the value of distractions in and for social media. Understanding distraction, like attention, as both affective and cognitive, this article explores its role in the affective capitalism of clicks, likes, and shares. Rather than conceptualizing attention and distraction as mutually opposing, I argue for conceptualizing them as the two sides of the same coin, namely as rhythmic patterns in the affective fabric particular to the contemporary landscape of ubiquitous networked connectivity.
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