Collective attention

CFS Lecture by Carolyn Jennings, Professor of Philosophy, University of California at Merced, USA


I have argued in several places for an emergence-based view of mental control. In such an account we exhibit mental control through the control of parts of ourselves by the whole. In attention, for example, the collection of all of our interests determines which of two competing interests gets prioritized. A nice thing about this account is how easily it can scale up to the social level. We might call emergent attention at the social level “collective attention.” The collection of interests shared by a group of people would, in this case, jointly determine which of the competing group interests finds expression. This might, for example, help us to make sense of how groups decide between alternative possibilities. As this approach depends on the structure of relations between the parts, it does not assume the existence of collective experience or intentionality, distinguishing it from most other accounts of collective cognition. In this talk I will discuss the evidence for collective attention and how it intersects with recent digital technologies.