Over the last few months, I’ve been struggling to understand the “Attention Economy”. Gina explained it to me the other day.
There’s a children’s game called “Farmer, Farmer, Let Me Down.” I had never heard of this game. I “googled” for it, and found nothing. Gina, I should note, lives in a world that is often undetectable by electronic means. That’s why the perspectives she offers are so valuable. To borrow terminology from Zelazny’s Amber series, she doesn’t walk in Shadow, where you and I live.
Anyway, back to “Farmer, Farmer, Let Me Down.” It is played on a see-saw. Rather than just oscillate up and down, the game proceeds by turns. One child is raised into the air. They stop. The child in the air then yells out: “Farmer, farmer, let me down”. The child on the ground end of the see-saw yells back: “What will you give me?”. Then the child in the air offers some farm implements or livestock. As an example: “I’ll give you two cows and a chicken.” At this point, the other child can “let him down”, thus rising into the air himself, and the roles are reversed. Or, the child on the ground can say: “Not enough.” In which case the child in the air needs to sweeten or change the offer. “I’ll give you a plow and a sack of corn”. I should point out that the items do not actually have to exist, nor does any actual physical barter occur. All that is happening is that the airborne child is attempting to intrigue (capture the attention of) the earthbound child. Play proceeds until recess is over. Or until boredom or exhaustion set in.
The “Attention Economy” happens when an entrepreneur decides that she can increase sales of farm equipment and supplies by analyzing video tapes of “Farmer, farmer, let me down” and generating targeted marketing at specific individuals based on their FFLMD preferences — i.e. which items are more readily offered, and which items are more likely to result in being accepted for “letting me down”. Armed with this business plan, the entrepreneur raises venture capital and builds free playgrounds equipped with see-saws and video cameras. The marketing literature to drive playground traffic emphasizes the added safety of continuous playground monitoring.
I get it, now.