What is that?

The attention of other people is the most irresistible of all drugs. Its purchase trumps any other income. That is why fame is above power, why wealth pales beside celebrity.

Georg Franck, urban planner, architect and software developer

The term „attention engineering“ describes a new discipline that deals with the user’s attention. In the past, social media have repeatedly come under criticism because they have mastered the art of directing the user’s attention in a targeted manner. In this way, they mutated into powerful manipulative tools whose misuse can be proven by several examples:

In 2018, the so-called Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light. Here, Facebook played a significant role in manipulating users‘ opinions through targeted disinformation, helping Donald Trump to win the 2016 election.

Also in 2018, the genocide of the Rohingyas in Myanmar was linked to incitement and calls for murder on social media.

Donald Trump

The highlight, however, is Donald Trump’s instrumentalization of social media throughout his term in office from 2016 to 2020. He understood like no other politician before him how to spread lies and agitation in short tweets and thus divide an entire nation. This culminated in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 by his supporters.

Emotionalization is also spreading in politics and society in this country, not least because today we can choose precisely those echo chambers on the Internet that reinforce our half-knowledge. In a world overflowing with information and emotions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from lies, and we often only look where the shouting is particularly loud. Unfortunately, politicians have so far failed to establish suitable rules to establish constitutional and moral values in social media as well.

Attention Engineering in Focus

In the following, I present my work „Attention Engineering“ in detail, which illuminates backgrounds and contexts. For the most part, I have refrained from citing sources here in favor of a better reading flow. All sources can be found in my bachelor thesis, on which this work is based. It is available for download here.

Especially in user experience design, the focus is on the attention of the user, with the goal of giving him a positive interaction experience. For this reason, a sharpened focus on attention engineering is particularly important. Only those who keep control over themselves can be self-determined and positively inspired in the World Wide Web.

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