02. What does “Attention Engineering” mean?

attention engineering

“Attention” is the focusing of perception on certain stimuli. However, since the human brain can only process information to a limited extent, the selection of these is an important mechanism. Attention is therefore a necessary prerequisite for efficient and conscious information processing. Engineering” (translated: “engineering science”) is the science that deals with technology – i.e. research, development, construction and production.

If you bring both elements together, then “Attention Engineering” (AE in the following) is about the central question: What are the stimuli that capture the user’s focus? To find the answer, data analysts research user behaviour on the Internet. They develop new strategies and techniques to control and target users’ attention and ultimately change their behaviour.

Stimuli can be of various kinds: visual, such as signal colours, movement, patterns and shapes, or acoustic, such as the typical notification sounds of an incoming message. They can also be associative and evoke your own memories or experiences. Some stimuli creep quietly into the subconscious, others are loud and quite obvious. And some only have an effect on certain users. All these aspects make it clear that different disciplines come together here: psychology, design and data-mining.

Only the use of artificial intelligence and deep learning makes it possible to collect, analyse and interpret user data on an unimaginable scale. As a result, very good predictions can be made today about what makes us “tick”. The resulting algorithms are highly effective propaganda tools.

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