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Digital technology has enabled connectivity on an unimagined scale. Human beings are social animals and economic activity promotes this socialization. Market transactions are based on optimism about the future, faith that the world is good and trust that growth is organic or coming from within the system. Individuals therefore invest in the future by having children, by extending credit and accepting risk, and by building connections with others in the sincere expectation of this connectivity being reciprocated.

This book explores the unintended consequences of ubiquitous connectivity. The first effect is captured by the sharing model. Technology offers multiple avenues for sharing experiences and personal information, so active engagement with this increased content uses mental effort. Connection inevitably leads to comparisons with other groups and individuals, so despite the benefits of affirmation and group inclusion, these links corrode social networks, leading to depression and mental apathy. The second effect--the result of the commercialization of sharing--is encapsulated in the attention deficit model. Loss of self-worth, driven by the first effect, encourages further connectivity and sharing as buyers seek more comfort and reassurance via social media, paying with time and personal information. The product is digital content and the payment is with time and data. Correspondingly, social media fulfills this demand with exuberance, both via user-generated content and commercially curated content. We are overwhelmed with even more information, paying with increasingly scarce time and attention. Finally, the third and most consequential effect is diminished risk taking. Attention scarcity, as a consequence of the content tsunami, throttles cognitive effort, impairing judgment and decision-making. So the safe bet may be to do nothing . . . take no risks and no gambles.

Weaving together the latest research on economics, psychology, and neuroscience, this book fills a void for readers wanting a smart, clear analysis of communications markets and the commercialization of Internet-inspired connectivity.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Connectivity, Attention and Risk

Abstract
Ubiquitous connectivity, inspired by the Internet, has four meaningful effects in a STAR narrative: sharing, tsunami, attention and risk-taking. The first effect is captured by the sharing model, which is the creation and exchange of information, both personal and general. This contributes to the second effect, which is a content tsunami—an information overload. The third effect is an attention deficit and a loss of agency or cognitive apathy. Attention deficit arises from the content tsunami, while the loss of agency is fostered by abnegation of control to prediction machines. As a consequence, the fourth effect is mistrust, fear and diminished risk-taking, as scarcity of mind induces resistance to change and reluctance to adapt to rapid technological changes.
Swati Bhatt

2. Time: The Measure of Connectivity

Abstract
The narrative begins with human interaction and information exchange. Human interaction has moved from face to face to wired communication and, more recently, to wireless and asynchronous connection in an ever-expanding network of friends. Platforms for this communication are now commercialized because connections are measured in terms of time. This chapter outlines the six distinctive features of information itself that standardize, or commoditize, these connections in terms of time. Defining attention as cognitive bandwidth hours, or uninterrupted hours of mental effort, time is a building block for attention.
Swati Bhatt

3. The Psychology of Connectivity: Follower Counts and Identity

Abstract
Information exchange is embodied in the sharing model which originated as a simple communal gossip session. On a digital platform, the network reached by communal gossip is enormous. Sharing in the virtual world builds self-esteem and confers virtual status where power is synonymous with follower counts on social media and generates a feel-good dopamine spike. But sharing is accompanied by comparison, judgment, anxiety and fear, only assuaged by additional self-revelation. The psychology of sharing creates a flywheel of ever-increasing exchange resulting in massive digital content.
Swati Bhatt

4. The Economics of Connectivity: Communication Markets

Abstract
Platforms that enable sharing have become revenue machines, evoking basic emotions to maximize the number of hours individuals spend on their site. Curiosity about how others live their lives can be satisfied by lingering on social media sites. Images accompanied by bite-sized annotations become daily refreshed résumés. The advertising-driven business model supports free platforms for the supply of content, quite often trivia, in order to build self-image. Demand for content is encouraged by free information, increased leisure time and flexible consumption via mobile devices.
Swati Bhatt

5. Streaming Technology and the Entertainment Industry

Abstract
Communication, information and entertainment is the purview of social media as well as the show business industry as both provide content. Streaming technology has accelerated the flow of content by decoupling it from time and giving users control over timing of consumption. This asynchrony combined with user-generated content, declining costs of production and distribution has facilitated the burgeoning of content in the entertainment world. Virtual reality and augmented reality have expanded into the video gaming market, electronic sports and online commerce, blending retail with entertainment.
Swati Bhatt

6. Content Tsunami and the Attention Deficit

Abstract
The story then moves to aggregation of user-generated content, media content and branded content unleashed as content tsunami. Associated with the increase in content is a dispersion of quality or noisy content, including false and misleading information. Consumption of content then requires careful filtering, sorting through enlightening content and trivia, which usurps scarce cognitive bandwidth. Juxtaposing the demands of a content tsunami with the supply of available hours of attention reveals a deficit, the attention deficit. Much like a budget deficit, shrinking cognitive bandwidth is equivalent to the revenue shortfall and the content tsunami is like the list of appropriations.
Swati Bhatt

7. Diminished Risk-Taking

Abstract
Strained mental resources inhibit the capacity for clear analysis and sound judgment. Adaptation to an environment swirling with winds of technological upheaval requires agility, resourcefulness and resilience. In short, mental effort. In the face of uncertainty, decision-making involves a creative assessment of outcomes and their probabilities, a specification of relationships between resources and outcomes and, importantly, an imagination capable of out-of-the-box thinking. Available cognitive bandwidth cannot meet this challenge. As a consequence, there is resistance to change, a reluctance to adapt and cautious conservatism prevails. Conventional outcomes are observed and groundbreaking entrepreneurial activity shrinks, more from compromised bandwidth than innate preference changes.
Swati Bhatt

8. Restoring Boldness and Reducing Apathy

Abstract
The narrative doesn’t end with diminished risk-taking. The sharing model on the Internet enhances the human experience in a spirit of equality and so we value transparency, trust, literacy and inclusion. Enterprises of risk are best supported in a culture of trust. An equal-valued exchange rests upon faith that the counterparty will fulfill their side of the bargain. Mistrust and fear might cloud even the initial bargaining process, so no transaction is made. Moreover, a forceful desire for privacy can perpetuate mistrust since it suggests fear of others mishandling one’s information as well as fear of people’s trivia invading one’s private mental space. How do we reconcile privacy with the sharing model? How do we guarantee and enforce property rights when personal data and cognitive bandwidth are private property? Individual liberty and free will are to be balanced against community and networks of trust when the goal is to move ahead with bold enterprises.
Swati Bhatt

9. Conclusion: Dialogue, Not Walls

Abstract
We like happy endings to stories, but this narrative, which is about the unintended consequences of digital connectivity, has a nuanced resolution. There is a public good aspect to the Internet, in that the benefits of a healthy network are felt by all, regardless of who is paying. Information exchange and community spirit are non-exclusive and non-rival. Harnessing the power of this interaction has made humans the most powerful species and will continue to do so. It will require that connectivity across humans and machines is conducted in a spirit of cooperation, thereby promoting trust and risk sharing. The balance between individual liberty and networks of trust can be achieved through dialogue, collective thinking and collective action. We cannot achieve this with walls, firewalls and fragmented societies.
Swati Bhatt

Backmatter

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