Who Invented Attention Economics?

December 19, 2008
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My recent posts about the macroeconomics of information and attention triggered an unexpected controversy about who deserves the credit for the concept of attention economics. The Wikipedia entry for attention economy credits Herbert Simon, and I had always thought he came up with the idea. Perhaps I’m biased because of the five years I spent at CMU.

But Michael Goldhaber posted a comment in which he made a case that he deserved credit for introd

My recent posts about the macroeconomics of information and attention triggered an unexpected controversy about who deserves the credit for the concept of attention economics. The Wikipedia entry for attention economy credits Herbert Simon, and I had always thought he came up with the idea. Perhaps I’m biased because of the five years I spent at CMU.

But Michael Goldhaber posted a comment in which he made a case that he deserved credit for introducing the idea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the late Herb Simon to respond.

But I did find an explanation on thw WorkingCogs blog that I thought might satisfy all parties:

Herbert Simon is often credited with being the first person to describe what attention economics is – that a wealth of information leads to a dearth of attention due to the fact that there is so much information out there and only so much attention that can be given to information, and the idea behind rationalizing how much attention any one information source receives.

Golhaber (1997) seminal paper (on an online peer reviewed journal) is however the crucial turning point for this idea. This article presents the strong hypothesis and its consequences. In what follows we will try to introduce the idea of attention economy, mostly from Goldhaber’s point of view and how some popular pages implemented attention technology. Goldhaber has been preparing a book for the last 10 years, and he blogs prolifically. 

I hope this explanation offers an equitable allocation of credit and resolves the unintended controversy.

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