Attention Halving

"Attention halving." It's a nifty term for a seismic cultural shift, echoing the notion that, like our tech's processing power, everything in life seems to be doubling in speed while our attention span inversely halves. This isn't just about bytes and bits; it's a story that paints across the entire canvas of our history, from the laborious chiseling of pyramids and sculptures to the instantaneous click of a camera and the hit of 'like and subscribe.'Imagine, once upon a time, art was a marathon. Sculptures and pyramids weren't built in a day, or even a year. Art and tales unraveled over centuries. Fast forward to painting – a bit quicker, but still a slow dance of brush and color. Then, the Oppenheimer moment for Art! Photography burst onto the scene, a sentiment echoed poignantly by Susan Sontag. We went from capturing moments in weeks and months to freezing them in a fraction of a minute, then seconds, then at 120+ frames even on cheap phones. Art and the tales it told, went from the longevity of stone to an instant flash, sometimes used as a flashlight.

Let's jump a bit further. Now, our stories don't just sit; they move. Photography set the stage, but movies – they brought stories to life, frame by frame. Starting at 12, then 25, and in games at ideally at least 60 frames per second. In a blink, we've zipped past the single frame into the land of movies and TV series to the frenetic world of TikTok. Narratives that once unfurled over hours are now crammed into seconds at an increasing framerate. Picture in Picture, Videos with Reaction Video next to them, frames are going spatial and multimodal. We cumbersomely try to keep up with ourselves with our own stories to tell, stitching them together day by day as vertically captured moments to swipe by. This speed isn't just in what we see, but also in what we tell. Stories like the Odyssey, once passed down through generations by word of mouth, found a home on walls, then papyrus, then paper. Then Gutenberg pulled another Oppenheimer with his press and we hit the fast-forward button again. Now, our stories aren't just written; they're typed, tweeted, and swiped away in an instant. The age of lingering over a tale is getting lost in the digital shuffle. The campfire about the war stories got replaced by us as keyboard warriors and voice memos. Stories once slow and told through generations are just flying by now.

As our storytelling mediums race ahead, our attention fractures and falters. We're in a time when the depth and nuance of the classics struggle to hold our flickering focus. The Gilgamesh epic, the Odyssey, the tale of the Monkey King told over generations, are repacked as instant consumer goods – noodles. But these tales left space for imagination, their power was to tell, not show, while information shows and doesn’t tell. It's a world racing so fast that our imagination can barely keep up. Imagination needs a gasp of air.

So fasten your seatbelts; we're now in the era of information snacking. Our consumption of tales has morphed into a relentless intake of data bytes. The narrative has transformed from a richly woven tapestry to a patchwork of ephemeral moments. Our minds, once gardens for stories to grow, are now racing tracks for facts and figures. Information is Fentanyl Soundbytes, luring us into an Attention Addiction.

…inhale …

… exhale …

Remember when narratives had room to breathe? Today's media landscape is a stark contrast to those days. The art of patience in storytelling is becoming as rare as a handwritten letter. We've moved from being storytellers to being attention merchants, trading depth for breadth, trading patience for pace. Information is a vertical rabbit hole, while art and tales are horizontals for your eyes to glaze away.

In this whirlwind, the need for slow media emerges as a beacon of hope. There's a charm in stories that take their time, narratives that unfold not in a swipe or a click but over days and weeks. It's about rediscovering the joy of savoring a story, of immersing oneself in a narrative that demands more than a fleeting glance. Netflix made us binge for it but realized the cliffhanger was better, so we're splitting again, into smaller chunks, enough to be addictive. I hope there is a path for slow media again.

We stand at a crossroads. On one side, the rapid consumption of media, on the other, the rich, immersive world of deep storytelling. It's about finding that sweet spot, where the speed of our times doesn't eclipse the depth of our narratives. How might we harmonize the speed of progress in our media with the halving of our attention? I simply don’t know… But I want to be in a world that allows lingering, glancing around, and getting lost in a field, not solely getting stuck chasing new information dopamine hits from one rabbit hole to another. Our media, art, and ways of expression need to break away again.It’s cool to make friends along the way, it’s sucks we don’t listen to them anymore…


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