The Attention Merchants: a deep dive into the origins of the surveillance economy
Tim Wu is a multiple threat: the originator of the term "net neutrality"; a copyfighting lawyer who cares about creator's rights; a fair use theorist; Zephyr Teachout's running mate in the NY gubernatorial race; an anti-monopolist who joined the NY Attorney General and used open source to catch Time Warner in the act; a lifelong deep nerd who was outraged by the persecution of Aaron Swartz, and the author of one of the seminal books on telcoms policy and human rights.
Now, he's back with his best book yet: The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, an erudite, energizing, outraging, funny and thorough history of one of humanity's core undertakings -- getting other people to care about stuff that matters to you.
Wu's book about ad-tech starts with a history of hucksters, advertisers, con artists, grifters, snake-oil salesmen, and other figures who made it their business to get in your business.
From this history of attention-economics as a social, core human activity, he carefully builds up a devastating critique of ad tech as it stands today, transforming "don't be evil" into the surveillance business model in just a few short years. It connects the dots between the sale of advertising inventory in schools to the bizarre ecosystem of trackers, analyzers and machine-learning models that allow the things you look at on the web to look back at you.
This stuff is my daily beat, and I learned a lot from Attention Merchants. More importantly, Wu has provided a framework for understanding current events in light of wider, historical trends.
Wu -- who has just become a father for the first time -- is planning a very limited tour for the book. If you can make it to one of these events, you really should.
Monday, October 24 WASHINGTON, DC
6:30 p.m. -- Kramerbooks, 1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
Tuesday, October 25 CAMBRIDGE, MA
6:30 p.m. -- WorkBar, 45 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Wednesday, October 26 TORONTO, CANADA
5:30 p.m. -- Rotman School Event @ University of Toronto, 105 St George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3E6
Saturday, November 5 AUSTIN, TX
11:00 a.m. -- Texas Book Festival, C-SPAN Tent, Austin, TX 78701
Monday, November 14 LOS ANGELES, CA
7:15 pm. -- ALOUD series in conversation with Madeleine Brand
Library Foundation of Los Angeles, 630 West Fifth Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071
Tuesday, November 15 SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Event Details 6pm in progress
Wednesday, November 16 PORTLAND, OR
7:30 p.m. -- Powell’s City of Books, 1005 West Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97209
Thursday, November 17 SEATTLE, WA
7:00 p.m. -- Seattle Public Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA, 98104
In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of advertising enticements, branding efforts, sponsored social media, commercials and other efforts to harvest our attention. Over the last century, few times or spaces have remained uncultivated by the "attention merchants," contributing to the distracted, unfocused tenor of our times. Tim Wu argues that this is not simply the byproduct of recent inventions but the end result of more than a century's growth and expansion in the industries that feed on human attention. From the pre-Madison Avenue birth of advertising to TV's golden age to our present age of radically individualized choices, the business model of "attention merchants" has always been the same. He describes the revolts that have risen against these relentless attempts to influence our consumption, from the remote control to FDA regulations to Apple's ad-blocking OS. But he makes clear that attention merchants grow ever-new heads, and their means of harvesting our attention have given rise to the defining industries of our time, changing our nature--cognitive, social, and otherwise--in ways unimaginable even a generation ago.
The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads [Tim Wu/Knopf]
(Image: Luma Partners)
Elan Lee and Matthew "The Oatmeal" Inman have run some of the world's most successful game Kickstarters, but for their latest, You've Got Crabs, they're just selling it the traditional way.
Jen Wang's "The Prince and the Dressmaker": a genderqueer graphic novel that will move and dazzle you
I love Jen Wang's work: her debut graphic novel Koko Be Good was thought-provoking and challenging and beautiful; "In Real Life," her adaptation of my story Anda's Game took the tale to places that delighted and surprised me -- today, Firstsecond publishes The Prince and the Dressmaker, which I believe will be her breakout graphic novel.
Here’s a guy who’s found his niche market. Out of a humble panga, there is a French baker who goes boat to boat selling his fresh-baked wares to those docked (primarily gringos) in Jalisco, Mexico’s Barra de Navidad marina and lagoon area. Chef Emeric Fiegen opened up shop, with his wife Christine, in this small […]
Trains may not be the most popular means of conveyance nowadays, but chances are you grew up playing with toy trains or building a model set to wrap around the Christmas tree. In either case, it’s safe to say that locomotives have long carried a unique sense of awe and scale, especially when they’re hundreds […]
When it comes to redesigning or renovating a living space, envisioning changes before they occur can be tricky for most. Thankfully, the web is home to tools that can remove some of the guesswork, like Live Home 3D Pro for Mac. This app lets you create detailed and furnished floor plans for everything from sheds and […]
For many startups and fledgling businesses, web hosting — and the fees associated with it — can take a sizeable chunk out of the company budget and limit growth down the road. But, that’s not to say there aren’t hosts out there who can get your site online while staying within your budget. Arch Hosting is a […]