Attention Economies and Online Governance Surfaces


This paper considers the intersection of governance and attention in online contexts. In particular, it assesses the relevance of "attention economies,'' or the analysis of human attention as a process and a finite resource, to digital "governance surfaces,'' or the means available for organizational adaptation and action. Existing theoretical frameworks for the governance of community-managed resources lack adequate consideration for how people’s attention is engaged and directed. To address this critical gap, this paper presents heuristics for analyzing how attention relates to governance in the analysis and design of complex systems. These heuristics draw insights from a review of literature surrounding attention economies and governance, as well as from three different case studies of attempts to address attention in the design of online governance surfaces. The heuristics are analytical and normative tools intended to enable researchers and system designers to better describe the flows and limits of attention in a governance system. They invite consideration of whether the system’s orchestration of attention is appropriate, efficient, and just.



economics, participatory community