Technicity of attention

My article A Technicity of Attention: How Software ‘Makes Sense’ has just been published in the open-access journal Culture Machine. It is part of a special issue on “paying attention“, focusing on the politics, ethics and aesthetics of the ‘attention economy’. The theme issue draws on and extends the work produced for a 2010 European Science Foundation-funded conference, also entitled Paying Attention (see here and here for my conference reports).

This is how the editors for the theme issue, Patrick Crogan and Sam Kinsley, introduce my contribution in their article Paying Attention: Towards a Critique of the Attention Economy:

Taina Bucher, in her article ‘A Technicity of Attention: How Software “Makes Sense”’ offers a sceptical response to the neurological turn in the humanities Bucher mobilises an understanding of ‘technicity’ to critically examine the internalisation of control as ‘governmentality’ (pace Foucault) that underpins the specific human-machine assemblages of attention harnessing located in Facebook. Through a detailed reading of the specific affordances of some core protocols of Facebook, in code and the practices they engender, Bucher examines the techno-social structure of the attention apparatuses of Facebook. These algorithms operate within a form of technicity, which Bucher takes to be a ‘coconstitutive milieu of relations between the human and their technical supports’ (Crogan and Kennedy, 2009: 109). OpenSocial, OpenGraph and GraphRank are examined as particular articulations of power, realised in relation between code and subject, as the algorithms automate the ‘sense making’ processes of what content is ‘relevant’ to a particular user. Bucher thus identifies this marshalling of what is visible, and also invisible, in Facebook as a locus of attention as a form of ‘governmentality’, which she takes to be the rationalities underlying the techniques for directing human behavior (Foucault, 2008). For Bucher, then, attention is managed by Facebook to propagate a certain social order of continued participation