Online seminar series on 'Attending as practice in the attention economy'

An AI-generated futuristic painting of a person practicing mindfulness in the chaos of modern life. Image created with Stable Diffusion (prompt: a futuristic painting of a person practicing mindfulness in the chaos of modern life)

ECPAI members working within the ESDiT project working group on the ‘Attention Economy’ are organizing an online seminar-series on “Attending as practice in the attention economy”.

The online series aims to contribute, using philosophy and ethics, to constructively critique the attention economy, a tech industry business model that treats human attention as a commodifiable resource.

Speakers currently planned

Wednesday, October 5, 2022, 13:30 PM -15:00 PM CESTJames WilliamsA Lightbulb for the Mind: Possible Futures for the Attention Economy
Wednesday, October 26, 2022 9:00 AM-10:30 AM CESTPeter HershockIntelligent Technology, the Attention Economy, and the Risks of Consciousness Hacking: A Buddhist Perspective
Wednesday, November 23, 2022 10:30 AM-12:00 PM CETSilvia Caprioglio PanizzaGrounding ethics through attention: Murdoch, Weil, and Zen Buddhism
Wednesday, December 14, 2022 10:30 AM-12:00 PM CETSoraj HongladaromToward an Ethics of Attention

Interested in attending?

Please write to Secretariat.P& which of these sessions you want to attend. You will then receive a link to join the online seminar.

Organizers: Gunter Bombaerts, Joel Anderson, Matthew Dennis, Lily Frank, Tom Hannes, Jeroen Hopster, Madelaine Ley, Lavinia Marin, Alessio Gerola, and Andreas Spahn


The ‘attention economy’ refers to the tech industry’s business model that treats human attention as a commodifiable resource. The libertarian critique of this model, dominant within tech and philosophical communities, claims that the persuasive technologies of the attention economy infringe on the individual user’s autonomy and therefore the proposed solutions focus on safeguarding personal freedom through expanding individual control.

While this push back is important, it uncritically accepts the framing of attention as a scarce commodity, giving rise to incomplete assessments of the moral significance of attention, and obscuring richer sets of ethical strategies to cope with the challenges of the attention economy.

We step away from a negative analysis in terms of external distractions and aim for positive answers, by approaching attention as practice.

The series engages with speakers from all kinds of backgrounds (philosophy on authors like Iris Murdoch, Martha Nussbaum, Simone Weil, Merleau-Ponty, Harry Frankfurt, or Buddhist ethics …; psychology; artificial intelligence; …).

Questions that will be central in the online series:

  1. What do attention and related concepts mean in the “attention economy”?
  2. How is attention a basis for or related to morality?
  3. How can attention (and related concepts) be built in the design of the attention economy in a humane way?

To answer this last question, we think the philosophical debate should turn from a negative to a positive focus:

  • From “What are the distractions?” to “How can wisdom practices, virtues, … support a desirable form of attention?”;
  • From “I must take back control of my attention” to “How can we use attention for flourishing, wisdom, …?”;
  • From reacting against “promising (false?) free comfort” to supporting “acceptance of necessary effort”; and
  • From “increasing individual needs in the attention economy” to support “collective or intentional joint attention in the attention ecology”.