Attention Economy

In the Attention Economy, our limited attention is treated as a scarce commodity. The term surfaced in the ’90s as a way to understand the economic implications of Digital Overload. The concept itself was theorized in the late ’60s by psychologist and economist Herbert A. Simon, who described attention as the “bottleneck of human thought” that, when overstimulated, limits our ability to perceive and produce:

“Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” In this way, the Attention Economy is extractive by nature, and therefore diametrically opposed to sustainability in both practice and theory.

Commodifying attention undermines Digital Autonomy, amplifies the effects of Algorithmic Bias, impedes Transformative Action, erodes democracy, and has disastrous consequences for Digital Health & Wellbeing. See Surveillance Capitalism.


  1. M. Greenberger (Ed.). Computers, communications, and the public interest. The Johns Hopkins Press, 1971.
  2. Line Carpentier, C. (2023). New Economics for Sustainable Development: Attention Economy [White paper]. United Nations Economist Network.