Michael H Goldhaber on 7 Jan 2001 06:16:11 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Disassociate Webdesign from Usability


I believe I am the originator of the term "attention economy," which you  claim
is dead. May I say a little, off the top of my head, in reply? What is dead is
a misappropriation of the term; I have always argued that the attention economy
and the money economy are fundamentally separate. What is over (in its first
form at least) is the simple idea that on the net, as elsewhere, the captains
of the money economy can appropriate attention for themselves to use as a
source of profits. In an effort to do that they made the net unattractive with
endless uninspired ads and web portals designed for the lowest common

Meanwhile many who  sought primarily attention rather than money on the net
offered designs of only the most superficial artistry. I think that so far the
real attention getters on the net, its real current stars are not designers  as
such but those who put out or edit streams of texts, more like nettime than
etoy, I suspect, or create new forms of search engine, such as google or other
innovative net software (Napster, for example). This is mostly not visible as
design. I have written elsewhere why real net (visual) art is extremely
difficult .

Nonetheless, scarcity of attention and its desirability not only are still true
but are on the increase. The net will only increase in importance as a possible
tool for attention getting, and through continual innovation , and many failed
experiments it will be a medium of endless new stars.  At the same time it will
long remain a site of conflict between the old money-material economy and the
emerging, different, but still grossly unequal attention economy.
(Incidentally it is and will be more an attention economy than a gift
economy---pace Richard Barbrook et al.---  because, unfortunately perhaps, the
desire for scarce attention will be more behind web productions than the sheer
generosity at least implied by the term 'gift.' I am writing a longer
explanation of this point that I should have ready soon.

Still, I do believe you are right to suggest that even purely visual web
design, along with other categories will have their own stars, as I read you to


Michael H. Goldhaber

My E-Letter: to subscribe send blank message to

geert lovink wrote:

> In response to a list of questions I received for a book about user
> experience (see below), I wrote the following answer:
> This is not the time to ask for favorite sites and personal taste. We have
> long arrived in the age of  the Internet economy, which is currently going
> through it's first recession. The web has become a world of lawyers and
> consultants. The overall function of web design has rapidly mutated. It is
> no longer demo design for the web as a whole, if that mythological space of
> the early days ever existed. Let's check the web reality of 2000 and 1. I
> have copy-pasted the first 20 sites from a web top 100 according to traffic,
> taken from http://www.100hot.com/directory/100hot/index.html
> 1.1. yahoo.com
> 2. 2. microsoft.com
> 3. 3. lycos.com
> 4. 4. aol.com
> 5. 5. altavista.com
> 6. 6. egroups.com
> 7. 8. excite.com
> 8. 7. go.com
> 9. 9. google.com
> 10. 10. cnn.com
> 11. 11. cnet.com
> 12. 13. fortunecity.com
> 13. 12. chek.com
> 14. 14. looksmart.com
> 15. 15. ugo.com
> 16. 16. amazon.com
> 17. 18. snowball.com
> 18. 17. usa.net
> 19. - brinkster.com
> 20. 27. quote.com
> Innovative and creative web design has lost its hegemony over the overall
> look of the web. It is therefor time to rethink and redefine its position.
> Either it declares an overall war to mainstream US-American tech and news
> portals, which is unlikely. Or it could become truly obscure and develop its
> own parallel universe of beauty. More feasible is the creation of an
> exclusive global design class (similar and close to the ones in fashion,
> architecture and the art market). A professional high/hype culture class of
> experts, feeding into the world of education and the niche market of design
> (web) magazines. This process is already well under way. Those who feel
> unease about this tendency towards glamorous aloofness are not alone. We
> could take initiatives and question the current trend towards cozy
> uselessness. Webdesigners could reclaim the
> Net, for example through a critical engagement in open source software,
> peer-to-peer architectures and early design involvement in setting standards
> for mobile phones, settop boxes, hand-held computers and other appliances.
> There is a growing need to break through the liberal impasse we face at the
> moment, where sophisticated web design still pretends to being avant-garde
> but in fact it has lost grip on the web reality. Conceptual web design is in
> danger to, involuntarily, get marginalised. Or marginalize itself if does
> not develop a critical understanding of the rapidly changing economic
> environment it is working in. Window dressing in a social and cultural
> vacuum, the immanent problem of all design, has always been around - and
> will always be. The misuse and appropriation by corporations for their own
> profit sake is a dilemma everyone is facing. I am not talking about a decay
> or even betrayal of web design. Quite the opposite. Flash technologies have
> certainly created a second wave, a renaissance after the first "html" wave
> of the mid nineties which java had not been able to trickle.
> What is more frightening is the somewhat unconscious isolation of web
> design, which can even be said of  Internet research as such. The New
> Economy is more and more dictated by the fluctuations of the stock markets.
> It is no longer driven by the will to pursuit technological innovation. It
> has become ignorant towards flash applications, streaming media or 3D
> virtual environments, avatar worlds, just to name a just few examples.
> The "usability" discourse is undergoing a similar faith of slow regression.
> Research about "stickiness", measuring user-friendliness of the design and
> frequency of visits once served the rapidly growing user base who were not
> anymore tech savvy compared to the first adapters who were not distracted by
> inconsistencies. Navigation has become a non issue, thanks to usability
> efforts. Since then usability research has turned against itself, de facto
> advising companies how to fit best into the mainstream mono culture.
> Pressure on the Internet departments of firms to generate cash is gigantic.
> No one is buying the argument anymore that profile can be raised with funky
> experiments. The attention economy is dead. "Aggregating 'eyeballs' is not,
> in and of itself, a business model" Fortune magazine concluded recently.
> Attention may contribute to branding but has failed to regenerate the
> required revenues. I would therefor make a strong argument for web design to
> disassociate itself from "usability" speech and its unintended effect of
> streamlining the web. Despite all the good intentions of the usability
> researchers such as Jacob Nielsen, Brenda Laurel and others. It's time to
> uncover other unlikely futures for web design through new alliances.
> ----
> > The focus of the book is on user motivation and experience. We would
> > like you to do the following:
> > 1, Name your favourite website in each of the following categories:
> > a) chatting
> > b) watching
> > c) playing
> > b) managing
> > d) working
> > e) buying
> > f) learning
> > g) traveling
> > h) listening
> > i) sharing
> > j) laughing
> >
> > 2, Take one of these websites and answer the following questions relating
> > to it:
> > in one sentence, summarise why you've visted this site more than once?
> >
> > why is this site well designed?
> >
> > what does it do that makes it unique to you?
> >
> > what makes it 'beautiful'?
> >
> > what makes it useful to you?
> >
> > what do you use this site for and how often do you use it?
> >
> > on average, how long do you spend on each visit?
> >
> > where do you use this site, at home or at work or somewhere else?
> >
> > what is the most successful aspect of this site, your favourite part?
> >
> > what is the most useless thing about this site?
> >
> > 3, name one non-pc internet device or other interactive networked device
> > and answer the following questions pertaining to that site/application:
> >
> > in one sentence, summarise what it is you like about this device?
> >
> > what makes it well designed?
> >
> > what does it do that is unique to the interactive environment?
> >
> > what makes it beautiful?
> >
> > does what you do with it, interact directly with things you do on other
> > devices, i.e. web to phone, phone to web?
> >
> > on average, how long does it take to use this device?
> >
> > how often do you use this device?
> >
> > where do you use this device, at home or at work or somewhere else?
> >
> > what is the most successful aspect of this device, your favourite part?
> >
> > what is the most useless thing about this device?
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
> #  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> #  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
> #  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
> #  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net


Nettime-bold mailing list