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Today’s issue is guest written and curated by my colleague and frequent collaborator, Julia Dixon. A key Media/Genius contributor from the start, it’s fitting that Julia is our inaugural guest scribe. 

Check out Julia’s sharp take on Renegotiating Attention — something most of us struggle with on an ongoing basis — along with the collection of intriguing links, and let us know what you think. (We’re all about the feedback.) Thanks — Chris
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Renegotiating Attention

“There’s something incredibly compelling about the idea of being able to drop into your friends' ears at any time... but it’s also quite intrusive.”

This quote from Pace Capital Founder,
Jordan Cooper, was one of many striking moments from the Betaworks Hearing Voices conference around the future of audio last week. Speakers touched on possibilities including AirPods as a platform, use cases for synthetic voices and how virtual assistants will become more integrated into our lives. With the promise of audio from friends and assistants seamlessly popping into our consciousness throughout the day, I can't help but wonder — How are we going to have any attention left to give?
 
We frequently stress the importance of long-form learning about trends reshaping the media landscape in this newsletter. In my own attempts to do so, I've found that comprehending the matters at hand isn't the challenge. It's the negotiation of our most scarce resource — attention. Constant news alerts and infinite social media notifications already make our time feel endlessly constrained. And emerging tech will likely only add to the noise (sometimes very literally in the case of voice tech). 

With so much competing for our attention, it's much easier to seek out quick bites of information than to give a developing subject its due time. Take our Media/Genius content — relatively high engagement in this newsletter indicates that as subscribers, you crave skimmable, easy to digest material. But our longer-form 
study guide rooted in the same subjects didn't reflect equal levels of interest, despite the appetite for it.

Researchers at Technical University of Denmark released a
study earlier this year that confirms we now have more things to focus on, but are focusing on them for increasingly shorter periods of time. It's no surprise then that plenty of people are writing about ways to combat the many distractions we face in the attention economy. Here's a taste:  
Research from the Technical University of Denmark shows increasingly narrow peaks of collective attention over time.
  • Author Nir Eyal believes being "Indistractable" will be the skill of the future, and that we can follow a four step model to fight distraction. More on his methods and new book in today's Deep Take.
  • Artist and academic Jenny Odell suggests investing our attention in the act of "doing nothing" for the refreshing, restorative effect it can have.
  • Productivity expert Lara Vanderkam advocates for a shift in perspective and priorities to create the feeling that we have all the time in the world.
Not surprisingly, most productive creatives settle for a blend of several existing tools and mindsets. Personally, I'm experimenting with freewriting in the morning to help focus my attention for the day. But if you'd asked me six months ago, I was attempting (and failing at) the bullet journal trend. When each day looks more like yesterday's science fiction, it's clear the number of distractions we face will only increase — what's your combat strategy? 
 

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What We're Reading
Platform Dominance
New Productivity
By Benedict Evans, Ben-Evans

We are in the middle of an interesting wave of new productivity software startups — there are dozens of companies that remix some combination of lists, tables, charts, tasks, notes, light-weight databases, forms, and some kind of collaboration, chat or information-sharing.

Platform Dominance
How TikTok Holds Our Attention
By Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker

On the popular short-video app, young people are churning through images and sounds at warp speed, repurposing reality into ironic, bite-size content. And spending a significant amount of time doing so. 

Content Experience
Entertainment is Getting Even Shorter, and Even Longer. What About the ‘Purgatory’ In The Middle?
By Cherie Hu, Music Business Worldwide

Across audio, video and other entertainment formats, there's a growing amount of buzz around really short pieces of content on (i.e. ten seconds or less, such as the latest GIF or TikTok meme), and around really long pieces of content  (i.e. one hour or more, such as extended podcast interviews or Netflix docu-series). The purgatory in the middle — content that has, for lack of better descriptors, a “medium” or “normal” duration — has become more difficult to frame as a source of future growth or innovation.

Media Forensics
Brace Yourself for the Internet Impeachment
By Kevin Roose, The New York Times

If the inquiry opened by House Democrats this week results in a formal impeachment of President Trump, it will be the first of the social media era. In many ways, it is a made-for-the-internet event. The political stakes are high, the dramatic story unspools tidbit-by-tidbit and the stark us-versus-them dynamics provide plenty of fodder for emotionally charged social media brawls.

Media Forensics
The Unsolved Case of the Most Mysterious Song on the Internet
By David Browne, Rolling Stone

Twelve years ago, a catchy New Wave anthem appeared on the internet with no information about who wrote or recorded it. Amateur detectives have spent thousands of hours since trying to figure out where it came from — with little luck. The question has been driving the internet crazy for years.

Media Forensics
What Fan Fiction Teaches that the Classroom Doesn’t
By Julie Beck, The Atlantic

Contributors to fan-fiction websites, may of which are adolescents, spend a significant amount of time seeking to improve their writing skills and helping others do the same with feedback, comments and reviews. How can classrooms get their students invested in similar communal learning environments?

Content Experience
All I Ever Wanted was a One-Trick Pony
By Zeynep Tufekci, Wired

Multipurpose smartphones and computers may have everything we need at our fingertips, but the notifications and interruptions emanating from our devices are not fine-tuned to our priorities. What if the designers of our technology shifted to a business model that better aligns with our personal incentives?

Emerging Technology
Using AI and Film to Track Tear Gas Use Against Civilians
By Tom Simonite, Wired

A mesmerizing sequence in Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras’ short film, Triple Chaser, strobes through dozens of images used to train machine-learning software to recognize grenades. The piece is a stunning example of art at the intersection of emerging tech and activism. 

Deep Take
How to Be Less Distracted at Work — and in Life
By Alison Beard and Nir Eyal, Harvard Business Review
In this podcast, Nir Eyal, an expert on technology and psychology, says that we all need to learn to be less distracted by activities that don’t help us achieve what we want to each day. Unwelcome behaviors can range from social media scrolling and bingeing on YouTube videos to chatting with colleagues or answering non-urgent emails. To break these habits, we start by recognizing that it is often our own emotions, not our devices, that distract us.
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick



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