Computers

The Writing- and Computer-Intensive Pilot Course

This semester I’ve co-developed and run a course pilot of eight sections, two instructors and roughly one hundred and thirty students total, through the use of at least eight different information systems: Blackboard, because it’s institutionally mandated and a place to store course documents and post announcements; Wikispaces, which we’ve used mostly to post editable sign-up sheets for conferences (though I think there’s more potential there); Zoho.com, an online productivity and document-sharing suite that we fell back on because our institution blocks the Google docs productivity and document-sharing suite; 750words.com, to serve as a space for daily writing; four separate WordPress installs at rhetcomp.net, to serve as a discussion space; and the ELI peer review post-beta, to implement early-stage peer review; and of course email, Web browsing and Microsoft Word.

It’s gone mostly well, though I’ll admit the successes have been varied.

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Ceci Tuera Cela, Take Two

Hal Varian is the chief economist for Google and retired professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, where he founded the School of Information and held positions with the Haas School of Business and the Department of Economics. In The Economics of Information Technology, he and Joseph Farrell and Carl Shapiro outline a market-based philosophy of the relationships between economic factors and for-profit information technology companies. They note that in technological industries, constant and substantial fixed costs are coupled with low or nonexistent marginal costs for each additional incremental unit (3). This is of particular interest when coupled to the careful distinctions they draw between “Information technology,” which “is used to manipulate information,” of which a portion “may be intellectual property” (4). We know these are not separate categories. Often, in the economic cycle of production, distribution, use, and re-production, one becomes the other. When that happens, we should understand it as an instance of the transformation problem and the aggregation problem. Varian is a lot smarter and a lot more well-educated about economic phenomena than am I, but I’ll point out that this illustrates a difference in emphasis and perspective: mainstream neoclassical economics is synchronic in its analysis, while I’m concerned via that economic cycle I’ve outlined with what takes place over time. Varian wants to categorize economic inputs and transactions and look at their intersections in the moment. I’m looking at processes over time and how time is always and inevitably the factor in the three problems (transformation, aggregation, substitution) that I see as being characteristic of the way we teach composition. We aggregate the labor of production into the commodification of both the grade and the skill, but the process itself attends to the phenomenology of writing in ways that blur value together rather than separate value into distinct domains.

What would happen, then, if we worked to closely examine the ways in which value is appropriated into different domains and by different parties at different stages in the economic process? Varian discusses the phenomenon of “price discrimination” enabled by “high-tech industries” in the ways that “price will often exceed marginal cost” and “a seller can offer prices and goods that are differentiated by individual behavior and/or characteristics” (12). This phenomenon, exemplified in wishlists and egocasting and the splintering of the supply of goods — Zuboff and Maxmin’s so-called “support economy” — would seem to be a strong counter to the rhetorically idealized massed economic forces of depersonalized corporations and ideologies of mass consumption. Chomsky’s critique of “Weapons of Mass Distraction” refers to advertising, and homogenizes capitalist entities in order to criticize them homogenously, as an undifferentiated group, while simultaneously surrendering to them as the overpowering metonymic avatars of an irresistible global capitalism. For critiques such as Chomsky’s, which are all too common to the discourse of composition, the game is already lost and it is always already the end of the world and the only things we can do is shake our heads and say, “If only they had listened to us, but they didn’t, so there’s nothing to be done except decry the fact that they didn’t listen to us and so reinforce our nobly subaltern position”: we have met the enemy, and he is us. On the other hand, if we were to attend to the diverse economic landscape and extend the metaphor of price discrimination to non-market activities, we would recognize ourselves and the work we do with information as an experience good.

Consider the concept of versioning as it takes place in the non-market context of revision in the composition classroom or in scholarly discourse. Varian describes “versioning” as “a way to price discriminate between collectors and casual viewers, and between buyers and renters,” and notes that “the price differences between the two version is much greater than the difference in marginal cost” (17). We know as scholars, and we teach our students, that once you educate yourself enough about a particular subject, you can shift your arguments about that subject to pitch some to experts and some to non-experts, who will take away slightly different messages and be inclined to react in different ways to your rhetorical pitch, despite how little you needed to adjust your fundamental message. We do versioning, too, in the ways we compose and ask students to compose for different audiences, and in the ways we return to habitual concerns. We embody versioning, in fact, in our variations on particular topics and our returns to the same concerns in conference presentations and scholarly articles. But it’s not price we’re interested in; it’s value, and how it circulates, and we hope that others take up our concerns and differentiate theirs from ours in new and unique ways.

That act of versioning, however, can only offer value in a context where enough people possess the motivation and the ability — the will and the skill — to make that discrimination. Varian talks about “network effects” and how those effects “are endemic in high-tech products,” pointing out that “the demand for the [technological] infrastructure depends on the availability of applications, and vice versa” (33). The condition of literacy is infrastructure. These are “demand-side economies of scale” (33): how valuable a skill is depends on how many people have it. As Varian notes, “average revenue (demand) increases with scale” (34). Increasing the number of people who know how to use computers increases the value of knowing how to use computers. The same phenomenon occurs with literacy. There is a hump, a tipping point, that one has to get over, and to a large degree we’ve done so in the U.S., and so we’ve hidden from ourselves that obstacle. That obstacle is wholly present in Afghanistan, even if we don’t know quite where it is: we only know that we have to get over it. That’s what the counterinsurgency battle is about, and that’s why we should be thinking about Plato and the Phaedrus when we’re engaging the Afghans. There are plenty of things that are going to influence them, and enjoyment of literature might be one, and familiarity with Western culture might be another (even as I cringe at the ugly inherent colonialism of such a statement). The coupled abilities of post-print literacy and computer literacy will be of enormous benefit to the Afghans if they can get enough people practiced in those abilities. Right now, they don’t have it, but we know that network effects are hugely influential, and we know that once that positive-value tipping point is passed, improvement in multiliteracies and economic gain (both market and nonmarket) can become mutually self-sustaining. In observing such a self-sustaining relationship, however, we should not confuse ourselves that marked effects are in some way equivalent to network effects, as we so often do.

In fact, as smart as Varian and Farrell and Shapiro are, they are in their attention to markets missing the broader and much more important picture: it’s not about money; it’s about value. Varian problematically asserts that “copyrighted computer software, such as Microsoft Windows, can have far greater economic significance than any single book, musical composition, or movie” (34), apparently ignoring the Bible, The Communist Manifesto, Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, The Internationale, Triumph of the Will, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. As market economists, they see only market effects. They are once more engaging in the reductive “ceci tuera cela” argument familiar from Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame: this will kill that. The book will kill the cathedral. Postmodernism will kill the author. The screen will kill the page. In fact, I would argue that the market-based economic arguments of Varian, Farrell, and Shapiro all carry within them their own unseaming and show how success with market-based interpretations of the functioning of information technology actually show and illustrate how the market is circumscribed, bound, and supplemented by a broader nonmarket economy. Not that this will kill that, but that this will coexist with that, and many more things besides, and necessarily so.

The Labor of Being Social

After a series of back-and-forth emails among the academic advisors, the training branch, the contracting officers, and the contractors themselves, we arrange a face-to-face meeting at one of the bases. The Afghans who stand to benefit from the projects discussed in the meeting are not included in the meeting or in the email exchange. Afghans don’t do business by email, for the most part. They talk face-to-face in the most senior person’s office. They have tea.

The meeting is held on the second floor of a building constructed out of transmodal shipping containers. The military calls them conexes or milvans. The shipping containers are bolted together; holes are cut with torches for windows; thin sheets of laminate are riveted or scabbed onto the corrugated steel walls, and electrical junction boxes and conduit and plumbing screwed onto the interior face of the laminate. The only available room large enough to accommodate all of us belongs to one of the Christian chaplains. There are three amplifiers, a drum kit, an electronic keyboard, an upright piano, stained glass appliqué paper on the steel casement window, stacks of bottled water, a rough-hewn plywood lectern, particle-board shelves lined with ecclesiastical and religious-themed books and DVDs: Francis Chan’s Forgotten God, Chris Fabry’s Dogwood, study bibles, hymnals, Robert Wilson’s The Story of God, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. We sit in a semicircle in plastic chairs. Above us, we hear the sound of pigeons nesting in the gaps of the corrugated steel.

There are discussions of the relative merits of the various graduate programs the Afghan instructors might attend: local universities, regional universities, online programs, United States universities. Funding is the primary concern, and the funding roadblocks to raising the English-language expertise of the faculty. We talk about TOEFL prep programs. One of the contracting officers observes that the multimillion-dollar contract for literacy instruction is the biggest contract in Afghanistan.

Later, one of the senior academic mentors on our team notes that his email inbox has recently filled up extraordinarily quickly, to more than 2,600 messages. “And all of it for nothing,” he says. “These don’t get anything done.” I remark again that the Afghans don’t use email: their communication is almost entirely face-to-face.

C. Paul Olson points out in his essay “Who Computes?” that computers replace labor-intensive processes with capital-intensive processes. We sometimes forget, I think, that sociality itself can be labor-intensive. Composition classes operate at least in part based upon a labor theory of value: one learns by doing, and the more work one puts into doing, the more skilled one typically becomes.

My conversation with the senior academic mentor shifts topics to the goals of literacy instruction, and what training in computer use might do for the Afghans. “If we come back and they’re doing all their communication by email and planning with Powerpoint,” he says, “we’ve failed.”

On Receiving a Shipment of Computers

Several days ago, I accompanied the advisor team’s supply officer and the Afghans’ supply NCO on an overcast beige-sky afternoon with rainclouds threatening as they went to a warehouse to receive several dozen pallets of laptops. The forklift driver offloaded them from the trucks — one pallet teetered and toppled to its side, but fortunately no damage — and into the central aisle of the warehouse, where another soldier with a skid jack maneuvered them into secure chain-link cages that were then locked and taped, and the doors to the warehouse themselves locked and bolted. A feral cat had made its home in the corner of one cage among the sacks of grain and beans and stacks of boxes and crates, suspicious of people, but clearly healthy and able to find its own way in and out of the warehouse. I took pictures of the unloading. The supply officer was reluctant to have his picture taken signing for the computers with the Afghans and the contract representative.

Raymond Williams, in his (neglected?) essay “Means of Communication as Means of Production,” argues that there are some obstacles to actually understanding the means of communication as the means of production:

First, the means of communication, having been reduced from their status as means of social production, are seen only as ‘media’: devices for the passing of ‘information’ and ‘messages’ between persons who either generally, or in terms of some specific act of production, are abstracted from the communication process as unproblematic ‘senders’ or ‘receivers’. (51)

I’ve seen a rhetorical habit in some scholarship today that attempts to avoid or defuse or otherwise subvert this (what I see as valid) criticism of enthusiasms over “new media” by offering a caveat along the lines of but of course all media are material. We think that if we just say we’re doing Actor Network Theory enough, or what-have-you, we’ll be let off the hook for performing those generalizing and abstracting moves.

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Inside, Outside

Two meetings, less than a week apart. One is in a large room with black leather couches around the perimeter, the most senior person’s desk — this is his office — in the corner furthest from the door. More important people sit closer to the position of power; less important closer to the door. The floor is covered by two matching large 10 x 15′ Afghan rugs in black and red and green and white. In front of the couches there are faux-wood coffee tables with chrome feet and floral-design clear glass tops. A bookcase with sagging shelves sits in one corner. Gilt-framed maroon velvet bulletin boards hang on the walls with organizational charts and calendars and quotations in Dari, and framed plastic-covered maps bracket a gold-framed photo portrait of President Karzai in the place of honor between the windows.

The couches are filled: there are a total of nineteen people in the room. There is an initial speech of 25 minutes or so, noting academic issues that have come up, offering guidance. There is some discussion of the fact that a Web presence and a Facebook page for the Academy have been authorized, and that “These will solve most of our problems.”

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Egypt and Afghanistan, Part 2

For the Afghans, the new semester starts in about a week. From my perspective as an advisor, everything looks unsettled: changes to classrooms, registration, new student orientation, teaching schedules. To my eyes, those changes prefigure larger ones in the country, and many of the Afghans seem to me as ambivalent about the smaller ones as the larger ones. I’m sitting in on an interview for a new instructor tomorrow, talking with another instructor later this week about suitable internet readings for the English-language Current Events and Culture elective, still not quite sure what to make of the إن شاء الله (insha’Allah) attitude that prevails here and the apparent incuriousness that seems to be its analogue. The Afghans I’ve met are enormously skilled in spoken argument, good-humored, passionate, but seem almost imperturbable in the way they take everything as given.

Nobody seems terribly curious about Egypt, or Tunisia, or Syria, or Libya, or at least they’re not willing to express as much to me. The translators and teachers that I work with use the internet, though they’re not nearly as attached to it as the Americans, and they aren’t as much interested in news from it as they are in culture — in YouTube videos, especially of Indian movies, and in Facebook. They’re more interested in radio and TV, and again the most popular TV programs seem to be Indian movies. That lack of interest in news frustrates me some because I’m eager to ask them what they think about the events in other countries in the region, and perhaps that implicit connection (is it as apparent to them as it is to me?) to their situation is why they’re reluctant to engage.

As I wrote last time, I think there is a connection between Egypt and Afghanistan, and a strong one, and it plays out in all sorts of ways with the topics I’ve been thinking about: the relationships between and among government, rhetoric, politics, organizing, technology, economics, and foreign intervention. The debates we’ve seen over what factors produced or contributed to the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and elsewhere — and who’s promoting which factors — seem to be absolutely key to questions of how governance is to work in those countries and what (if any) role foreign governments might have in answering those questions. Folks who study rhetoric and technology might have something to contribute to discussions of how democracies function in the 21st century. The assertions offered by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt as to the nature of those uprisings are as good a place as any to start:

The insurrections of Arab youth are certainly not aimed at a traditional liberal constitution that merely guarantees the division of powers and a regular electoral dynamic, but rather at a form of democracy adequate to the new forms of expression and needs of the multitude. This must include, firstly, constitutional recognition of the freedom of expression — not in the form typical of the dominant media, which is constantly subject to the corruption of governments and economic elites, but one that is represented by the common experiences of network relations.

This is a claim both about the motivations of the rebels involved in the uprisings and about the way they represent themselves and are represented. As is the habit of Hardt and Negri, it hits many of its targets only glancingly because of its degree of abstraction: certainly there are problems with the dominant media’s relation to political and economic interests; certainly there are concerns with corruption; certainly there’s a desire for freedom of expression; certainly the ways people organize themselves into and communicate via and act among and within networks (as even a vexed a figure as General McChrystal has recently argued) need recognition; but all these things are a lot more concrete than Hardt and Negri’s theorizing might indicate. At some points, though, the connections between their claims about media, democracy, organizing, and rhetoric become (refreshingly) more clear, as when they assert that

The organisation of the revolts resembles what we have seen for more than a decade in other parts of the world, from Seattle to Buenos Aires and Genoa and Cochabamba, Bolivia: a horizontal network that has no single, central leader. Traditional opposition bodies can participate in this network but cannot direct it. Outside observers have tried to designate a leader for the Egyptian revolts since their inception: maybe it’s Mohamed ElBaradei, maybe Google’s head of marketing, Wael Ghonim. They fear that the Muslim Brotherhood or some other body will take control of events. What they don’t understand is that the multitude is able to organise itself without a centre — that the imposition of a leader or being co-opted by a traditional organisation would undermine its power. The prevalence in the revolts of social network tools, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are symptoms, not causes, of this organisational structure.

There it is! Symptoms, not causes: that starts to say something a little more intelligent — and a little more interesting — than the tired debate over whether the events in Egypt and elsewhere represent some sort of Facebook revolution. That’s what I’ll talk about here, and that look at the debate over the alleged Facebook revolution takes me to questions of access and privilege in relation to new media, social media, and mainstream media. Those questions, I assert, are fundamentally economic questions, even though those with the privilege of access to such media prefer not to think of them as such, because behind economic questions of access to media lie more fundamental economic questions of access to the basic needs of sustenance. The revolution in Egypt was in very large part about bread. Not a terribly surprising thing, maybe, but in the broader picture of how American development policy via USAID actually caused the shortages, troubling: Americans might happily celebrate the apparent pro-democracy internet freedoms we associate with Tahrir square, but what do we do when we realize that the longstanding design of our economic foreign policy is precisely what the rebels rose up against?

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Egypt and Afghanistan, Part 1

A little less than a month ago, two very small things happened. Both were mediated to me by the internet in the same place where I’m sitting and typing on my laptop now, in front of my window in the KAIA North barracks in Afghanistan, and I’m still thinking about their intersection.

The first thing: I was listening to an intermittent stream of NPR’s Morning Edition that featured Steve Inskeep interviewing Iranian-American academic Vali Nasr about the Muslim middle class and its role in the revolution in Egypt, and Nasr identified the Muslim middle class as “people who are better off, who want new opportunities, participate in the global economy, and also want the political freedoms that go with it. Those are the people who use the social media.” A little later in the interview, Nasr made a firm distinction between “the free flow of information” and “free economics and integration of these parts of the world into the global economy.” Nasr’s first point struck me as an important one, in a way that was underreported in much of the press: the revolution in Egypt had a strong class-based economic component. His second point struck me as curious: aren’t “the free flow of information” and economic freedom fundamentally related, especially today? Why draw a line between them?

The second thing: a friend asked me, via Facebook, “What do the Afghans over there think about what’s going on in Egypt?” It’s a good question, and one I still don’t really have an answer for. The Afghans I talk to are circumspect about their opinions, and understandably so, I think, given their history. And it’s an important question. There are clear intersections — sometimes oppositional, sometimes parallel — between the democracy-building impulses in the two countries, and clear intersections as well between the interrelations among information, democracy, and economics in the two countries.

Both countries’ struggles with and toward democratic freedoms are simultaneously spurred and inhibited by huge and complex economic problems that go far beyond their enormous and systemic corruption and graft. Part of what I’m going to do here is try to use Egypt as a way to think about Afghanistan (as well as a way to think about the concerns with economics, technology, and literacy that occupy my scholarly practice), so I’ll for the moment take Afghanistan’s economic problems — more than a third of the population unemployed, more than a third of the population living below the poverty line, about three-quarters of the population illiterate, a per capita GDP that ranks 212th out of the world’s 229 nations — as a given, to be returned to and examined later in considerably more detail, using Egypt’s example as an analytical tool.

So first to Egypt, and the Facebook hype.

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“Digital Maoism”: Not Much There, Really

I finished Jaron Lanier’s 2006 essay on “Digital Maoism,” and as I’d suspected not far into the article, there’s not much there beyond oversimplifications, weasel words, straw men, and sweeping generalizations. More than anything else, Lanier sounds like a snubbed Ayn Randian railing against the unwashed masses of the internets who don’t deserve or recognize his brilliance. He gets spanked hard and deservedly in the responses, most notably by Douglas Rushkoff and Yochai Benkler, but also — as you’d expect — by Clay Shirky and Cory Doctorow.

And that’s kind of the problem I’m finding: I very much agree with folks like Benkler — especially like Benkler — and so I want to seek the counterbalancing argument. When I find myself nodding my head in too-easy or too-vigorous assent, I look for the other side; I want to hear what the critiques say. Metonymically speaking, I’ve got my Wealth of Nations just as full of notes as my Kapital, and I’ve got Friedman and Hayek rubbing shoulders with Wolff and Gibson-Graham. But with the digital economy stuff, it’s either outdated like Shapiro and Varian or sloppy like Lanier, to the point where the terrain of the digital seems more and more like a limit case for the economic logic of capitalist exclusivity.

“Digital Maoism” for Digital Rhetoricians?

I’m reading Jaron Lanier’s 2006 cautionary anti-crowdsourcing manifesto “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism,” and it’s interesting to look at the way he understands writing. On the one hand, in looking at “most of the technical or scientific information” on Wikipedia (I think I’d qualify that to say “much” rather than “most,” unless he’s got access to statistics he’s not citing), he notes that “specific texts get cloned from original sites at universities or labs onto wiki pages,” and such information thereby “loses part of its value” when taken out of its context of production and out of relation to its author. Fair enough: yes, I’ll certainly go with that; the notion that all writing is inherently rhetorical, and that context matters, although he seems to be performing the current-traditionalist move of privileging the primary or original (I’m resisting the urge to put that word in scare quotes) context over any subsequent context or recontextualization. (The New Critics said, implicitly, “Always dehistoricize,” to which Jameson rightly retorted, “Always historize,” to which in turn digital rhetoricians, remix artists, and others aquiver in the ecstasies of influence might respond, “Always rehistoricize.”) Of course, the critique he’s making could be leveled against the decontextualized knowledge found in any encyclopedia, and in fact it often is, implicitly, in the way that composition teachers forbid students from using encyclopedias (wiki or otherwise) as sources for research papers. It’s an interesting take on the value of writing, though; the suggestion that something is somehow worth less when it’s copied into a new context: does this work with or against the ideologies associated with the social turn in writing instruction? Against, I think: it’s a romantic ideal masquerading as a rhetorical ideal. This sense of the nature of his argument is strengthened for me when Lanier asserts that on the Web (and, implicitly, in writing), “value would flow from people” and that “value always came from connecting with real humans.” (Note the familiar romantic privileging of authenticity in the use of the word “real.”) Ultimately, in fact, writing itself becomes for Lanier an asocial act: “What I think of as real writing. . . involves articulating a perspective that is not just reactive to yesterday’s moves in a conversation.” For networked writing, that’s a pretty striking concept.

Paying Attention as an Aggregation Problem

Last semester, our FYC students read an article by William Deresiewicz that indicted the dangers posed to the focused and individually attentive reflective mind by today’s digital technologies of multitasking. I’ve been thinking about that article more lately, both in the way that it intersects with my concerns of the economic valuation of writing as a form of immaterial labor and in the way it intersects with other articles I’ve been reading about the our evolving understanding of the function of attention. N. Katherine Hayles usefully outlines (behind a paywall, but partially available here) the binary of “Deep Versus Hyper Attention” (to be taken with all the usual necessary Derridean caveats about binaries), Eric Gordon and David Bogen investigate how we might rethink configuring the parameters of situations requiring (forms of) attention (and in so doing lead me to other interesting things to read on the topic), and Christine Rosen offers a perhaps more balanced critique than she usually does but one that engages in much of the sloppiness (track her use of the word “this”) typical to arguments over technologies of attention. (When Deresiewicz came to talk to our FYC students, he wound up hyper-qualifying so much of his argument as to essentially offer nothing beyond the blandest platitudes.) Attention is such a protean thing that it skates away like mercury, as Gordon and Bogen do an excellent job of showing. One good point, though, that Rosen starts to get at and that Hayles try to set up some limits for is the definition of “multi-” in our use of the attention-related term “multi-tasking.” What exactly counts as “multi-tasking,” anyway?

For some of the participants in the debate (Rosen and Deresiewicz in particular), the digital technologies that serve today as the most obvious tools for multitasking — the ones we most readily notice — become metonyms for the activity: if you’re doing more than one thing at once with a technology that didn’t exist ten years ago, you’re multitasking. On the other hand, if you’re reading a bedtime story for a child who’s sitting in your lap — in other words, engaging in the data-processing activities of taking in words and pictures, understanding the relations between them, performing them for an audience, monitoring that audience’s affective response to your performance, assessing your interpersonal interaction with that audience, while at the same time engaging in the kinesthesia of making that audience comfortable and relaxed while sitting in your lap, turning the pages, and keeping the book at an appropriate eye level — well, no, that’s not multitasking; that’s reading a bedtime story.

What happens, I think, is the same thing that folks who do work with digital technologies have known for a long time: the digital tools make relations and activities formerly taken for granted newly visible. To borrow from C. Paul Olson again, digital technologies replace labor-intensive processes with capital-intensive processes. As a form of immaterial labor, paying attention is work, but as anyone who uses Google Reader (or any RSS aggregator knows), paying attention is itself something that can be streamlined and compressed via technology into what feels like firehose force. Richard Lanham offered at least a good start in The Economics of Attention: information is (in many contexts today) hardly a scarce commodity. The problem Lanham ran into was an excessive focus on those two areas of neoclassical economic interest: scarcity and commodities. His proposed solution was to examine how we redistribute attention as a scarce commodity, which I think goes in the wrong direction: attention is not a commodity. It’s a form of work; of labor.

As such, attention requires examination and conceptualization as a factor of economic production. While I’m not in any way suggesting here that I adhere to a labor theory of value, I do think that understanding the work of attention as a form of immaterial labor and thereby as a form (at least in some cases) of production results in the phenomenon of multitasking showing itself as a sort of Sraffian aggregation problem.

(As I work through the ideas above, I’m realizing even more that my dissertation work gave me a glimpse of only the tiniest corner of the types of questions that I want to investigate. What I’m increasingly asking myself as I do so is: why? What do I hope to learn? What types of questions — yes, hello, stasis — do I want to pursue? Am I interested in how the work described above happens? No, that’s a problem of production, of techné.