If economics is about the allocation of resources, then what is the most precious resource in our new information economy? Certainly not information, for we are drowning in it. No, what we are short of is the attention to make sense of that information.
With all the verve and erudition that have established his earlier books as classics, Richard A. Lanham here traces our epochal move from an economy of things and objects to an economy of attention. According to Lanham, the central commodity in our new age of information is not stuff but style, for style is what competes for our attention amidst the din and deluge of new media. In such a world, intellectual property will become more central to the economy than real property, while the arts and letters will grow to be more crucial than engineering, the physical sciences, and indeed economics as conventionally practiced. For Lanham, the arts and letters are the disciplines that study how human attention is allocated and how cultural capital is created and traded. In an economy of attention, style and substance change places. The new attention economy, therefore, will anoint a new set of moguls in the business world—not the CEOs or fund managers of yesteryear, but new masters of attention with a grounding in the humanities and liberal arts.
Lanham’s The Electronic Word was one of the earliest and most influential books on new electronic culture. The Economics of Attention builds on the best insights of that seminal book to map the new frontier that information technologies have created.
In the early 1960s, computers haunted the American popular imagination. Bleak tools of the cold war, they embodied the rigid organization and mechanical conformity that made the military-industrial complex possible. But by the 1990s—and the dawn of the Internet—computers started to represent a very different kind of world: a collaborative and digital utopia modeled on the communal ideals of the hippies who so vehemently rebelled against the cold war establishment in the first place.
From Counterculture to Cyberculture is the first book to explore this extraordinary and ironic transformation. Fred Turner here traces the previously untold story of a highly influential group of San Francisco Bay–area entrepreneurs: Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth network. Between 1968 and 1998, via such familiar venues as the National Book Award–winning Whole Earth Catalog, the computer conferencing system known as WELL, and, ultimately, the launch of the wildly successful Wired magazine, Brand and his colleagues brokered a long-running collaboration between San Francisco flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley. Thanks to their vision, counterculturalists and technologists alike joined together to reimagine computers as tools for personal liberation, the building of virtual and decidedly alternative communities, and the exploration of bold new social frontiers.
Shedding new light on how our networked culture came to be, this fascinating book reminds us that the distance between the Grateful Dead and Google, between Ken Kesey and the computer itself, is not as great as we might think.
When we make phone calls and use computers, electronic devices mediate how we communicate. In each instance, we exchange symbols and information just as we have since humans began speaking and writing. What, then—besides economy of space and time—differentiates electronic communications from ordinary speech and writing?
The difference, Mark Poster argues, is the profound effect electronic mediation exerts on the very way we perceive ourselves and reality. To help decode the linguistic dimensions of our multiple forms of social interaction, he plays upon Marx's theory of the mode of production—the shift to late capitalism has a parallel in the shift from the mode of production to that of information.
Enlisting poststructuralist theory, he links four modes of communication with four poststructuralists: TV ads with Baudrillard, data bases with Foucault, electronic writing with Derrida, and computer science with Lyotard. Mode of Information points the way to a poststructuralist strategy for writing history, a framework well suited to unearthing structures of domination and the means to their disruption.
"An informed, insightful, provocative account of phenomena that have transformed virtually every area of public and private life on our time."—Robert Anchor, American Historical Review
"The importance of Poster's book is unmistakable for he skillfully negotiates between and juxtaposes two wide theoretical domains—electronically mediated communications and poststructuralist theory—about which much has been written, but hardly with the acumen that he brings to bear in a long-awaited critical rapprochement."—Charles J. Stivale, Criticism
Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe created a volume that set the agenda in the field of computers and composition scholarship for a decade. The technology changes that scholars of composition studies faced as the new century opened couldn't have been more deserving of passionate study. While we have always used technologies (e.g., the pencil) to communicate with each other, the electronic technologies we now use have changed the world in ways that we have yet to identify or appreciate fully. Likewise, the study of language and literate exchange, even our understanding of terms like literacy, text, and visual, has changed beyond recognition, challenging even our capacity to articulate them.
As Hawisher, Selfe, and their contributors engage these challenges and explore their importance, they "find themselves engaged in the messy, contradictory, and fascinating work of understanding how to live in a new world and a new century." The result is a broad, deep, and rewarding anthology of work still among the standard works of computers and composition study.