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Today is just 24 hours long. Tomorrow will be 24 hours long, too. We sleep an average of 7.7 hours a night, which leaves 16.3 hours in which we humans can pay attention to, well, everything. That’s not increasing. So, in other words — no matter how much we think we can multitask, human attention is finite.

I love this take on time, attention and how it all relates to the information overload endemic in society. Rather than focus on people having to develop skills and practices in order to filter content, maybe we could actually start looking at the over production.

As an observation I’d add that advertising is becoming increasingly meaningless. It noise that’s forcing different business models to emerge that no longer depend on ads to support them. Think Netflix. Think Spotify. Perhaps the next big thing coming, which I’ll be curious to see how plays out, is the fact that iOS 9 has native support to TURN OFF website ads.

When we actually break down the fixed time in the day it forces us to rethink what it is we are trying to achieve in that space:

  • Sleep: 7.5 hours (I’ll round down)
  • School/Work: 8 hours (Let’s say the kids do very little, if any homework)
  • Other: 2 hours (Socializing, drinking, video games, playing sports, texting, showering, brushing your teeth, talking to family…)

That is 17.5 hours a day taken up by, well, living and stuff. So if every other waking second was spent consuming long and short form video — which it isn’t — that would only be 6.5 hours per day.

The other idea in this piece that I can really relate to is a definition of time as a finite asset. One that we can and should measure against , rather than something to measure with. I have a huge issue with time as a measurement of anything - because it’s relative and far more complex. Seat time, labour hours - they’re proxies that are becoming more and more redundant.

Perhaps it’s time to re-think time.

Source: The Denominator Problem: Understanding the Rising Cost of Human Attention

Image: Brighton Clock Tower by Dominic Alves

Category: post

Tags: time,content,advertising,attention,denominator

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Tim Klapdor


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