From a review of Tim Wu's new book (to be released 10/18)
"The economist Herbert A. Simon first developed the concept of an attention economy in a 1971 essay. Taking note of the new phenomenon of “information overload,” Simon pointed out something that now seems obvious—that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” In recent years, thinking about attention as a scarce resource has come into vogue as a way to appraise the human and psychological impact of digital and social media.
The animating insight of Tim Wu’s illuminating new book, The Attention Merchants, is to apply this concept as a backward-facing lens as well as a contemporary one. Modern media, he argues, have always been based on the reselling of human attention to advertisers. Wu, who teaches at Columbia Law School, is a broad thinker about law, technology, and media who has had a varied career as an academic, a journalist, and a 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor of New York. He is best known for developing “net neutrality”—the principle that access providers (such as Comcast or Time Warner) should treat all Internet traffic equally—which formed the basis of a federal regulation that went into effect last year."They’ve Got You, Wherever You Are by Jacob Weisberg | The New York Review of Books