How To Create a Pencil …

Here is a classic clip of legendary American economist Milton Friedman explaining “the magic of the price system” (free markets) as being responsible for the distribution of knowledge and skills necessary to make everyday goods such as the pencil.

Although I am not personally a fan of Friedman (see Klein’s Shock Doctrine), I appreciate this clip at a topical level as it helps to describe complicated processes before us.

Attention Economy: The Game

Ulises Mejias has developed a pen-and-paper game to help students better understand the Attention Economy. The game is developed as part of the course, “Friend Request Denied: Social Networks and the Web”.

How do new bloggers gain recognition? Why are some people in MySpace or Facebook more popular than others? Why does one YouTube video get seen by thousands of people, and another by just a few? What does it mean that “on the internet, everyone is famous to 15 people”? Can the subject matter of the content we post to an online network make us more or less popular?

This game is an accelerated simulation of the process of gaining attention online (acquiring more readers, friends, hits, etc.). The goal of the game is to collect the most attention. The game tries to condense a process that can take weeks or months into about an hour. It is intended for people who are new to the study of online social networks, but anyone can play. The game can also be used to teach some basic characteristics of networks, such as the role of hubs or connectors in scale-free networks. Players are asked at the end to critically reflect on the values that drive this Attention Economy.

This looks like a great idea, and I wish I were as creative. While I feel many of these concepts are best actualized/experienced online, a game like this could help students gain a deeper understanding of their own online relationships within the greater networked context.

See also The Attention Economy by Goldhaber (1997). It is a bit older but still a very relevant read.