Robert Scoble, Attention,Get a Life, Which Life

by Marianne Richmond on June 11, 2006

So, if I hadn’t been working on Saturday night (Get a life) and didn’t suffer from advanced, possibly chronic continuous partial attention I wouldn’t have tuned into Techmeme on a Saturday night and read the news by way of Silcon Valley Watcher:" Microsoft’s top blogger Robert Scoble is leaving…."

Well, that news has been well dissected today from its meaning in the blogosphere at Diva Marketing to what it means for Microsoft at Randy Holloway Unfiltered to a focus on starting something, not leaving at Cruel to be Kind. The range of blog posts are well organized at Techmeme.

To me, the news highlighted some other related concepts that are being discussed on line. One is, of course the concept of attention and/or continuous partial attention that led to my awareness of the Scoble news; and the other one is identity: digital life/real life. Attention, and my own frustrations with it, is a topic that I have written about before. The last time, I included a promise to pay more attention. Liz Strauss did the same, but I think she is doing better at it since she is writing about tools, organization and backing up files and I am still writing about attention.

Returning to the behavior that this post started with, its Saturday night and I am working, and instead of attending fully to the task at hand, I multi-task my way to techmeme; this moves to the other issue: digital life vs real life. Joshua Porter at Bokardo has been writing about, "The non-collision of relationship and independent George." George? George from Seinfeld. And this provides a feedback loop in and of itself because Seinfeld is one of my 15 year old son’s favorite TV shows and he frequently asks me to watch it with him and although I frequently do, I frequently don’t; yes, he is asking for attention and he is not getting it.

Bokardo’s uses the intersection of George as defined as someone in a relationship versus George as just George meet. Bokardo’s point is about our digital lives on our blogs, email, aggregators vs our real lives and is there a difference in our identities between the two. If we believe that there are two of us, or two or more of us.

He references Nicolas Carr at Rough type who writes, "When we communicate to promote ourselves, to gain attention, all we are doing is turning ourselves into goods and our communications into advertising. We become salesmen of ourselves, hucksters of the “I.” In peddling our interests, moreover, we also peddle the commodities that give those interests form: songs, videos, and other saleable products. And in tying our interests to our identities, we give marketers the information they need to control those interests and, in the end, those identities.”

Carr’s concerns is that as we provide our lives as content on MySpace and YouTube and involve ourselves in the lives of others we are becoming "digital narcissists" and he quotes Scott Karp who writes,

"This is why MySpace can’t effectively monetize its 70 million users through advertising — people use MySpace not to GIVE their attention to something that is entertaining or informative (which could thus be sold to advertisers) but rather to GET attention from other users. Why is it so appealing to MySpace users to be able to post messages publicly on other users’ sites? Because they can GET attention as a function of GIVING it."

Bokardo believe that " the dichotomy of a “digital life” being somehow different from our “real life” is becoming more false every day. Not only do people understand how web technologies work, but they’re leveraging them to improve all parts of their lives." This is illustrated well at Toby Bloomberg’s Blogger Stories.

So, what about the intersection of digital life vs real life? Well we are both products of our environment and producers of our environment, online as well as off line. The self is a social product of the dynamic interaction between ourselves and our environment( social cognition theory, symbolic interactionism) and human interaction is dynamic process of reciprocal role-taking.

Technology has made our interactions with "others" significantly different than originally imagined by the pre Internet. theorists in that "others" is merely a much larger group and a much more self-selected group.We are not limited by proximity and therefore have much more control over our interactions. The first modern technology driven change was with the advent of television and "old media." Media social influences were "symbolic" role models and influencers and communication was one way.

Next technology enabled two way interaction on blogs and social networks, on an expanded level so that our environment has expanded exponentially. Now, not only are we able to interact online with an expanded environment, we are producing and starring in entertainment content on places like YouTube in a world where everyone’s lives can be viewed as a TV sitcom or a drama. Digital narcissism? Of course; a natural progression from confessions on Oprah and my tragedy, my best seller.

Another point to consider is made by Anne Zelenka. We have different roles for different aspects of our lives; our identity is fluid whether online or off. Our identity is contexual isn’t it? We are parents, children, spouses, employees, teachers and students all in the same day and as Goffman says we play parts during our daily performances.

So, here is the point where attention meets identity in this story. I would have continuous partial attention regardless of technology; technology enabled access to information has only provided more choices. Multi-tasking is a way of life for me; part of my identity. It lead me to the Scoble news late Saturday night. I don’t know Robert Scoble other than through his blog and his book.But, by virtue of his identity in the blogosphere, I thought it was noteworthy and passed it along. Which made me start thinking about identity. This was big news in one corner of my life, on line. In the offline corner it was non-news. Hey kids, Robert Scoble is leaving Microsoft! Robert who?

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