Just heard Janet Murray talking about her new book Inventing the Medium in which she theorises about “shared attention” as a fifth affordance of digital media alongside the four models of media theory (which she categorises as Transmission, Semiotics, Humanistic and Political), drawing on the work of cultural evolution theorist Merlin Donald, Origins of the Modern Mind.
She talked about “focus attention” between humans, and between human and machine, arguing that a joint attentional scene is essential to (new) media, citing the example of Engelbart’s mouse. I wanted to ask how her theories related to ideas of the value of attention which was the subject of DCRC’s recent conference on Paying Attention, but didn’t have the opportunity. She touched on the “expanded” attention afforded by iPad and twitter, etc., citing examples from the Experimental Television Lab at Georgia Tech, including the Smart Tablet which uses semantic segmentation (drawing on the Encyclopaedic affordance of digital media) to enable documentary footage from different films to be navigated coterminously. All useful stuff to reflect on in terms of developing and evaluating the app and the REACT Hub bid I’m working on at the moment… I’m musing about the apparatus of cinema and the shared attention of the darkened auditorium.