The Null Device

Attention Rights Management

Prediction: the next thing after Digital Rights Management will be Attention Rights Management.

Advertising is increasingly everywhere; the number of surfaces without advertising is diminishing. In the U.S., apparently petrol pumps have video screens which show ads now. They are even experimenting with advertisements printed on potato chips. And it is to be expected; any corporation that does not seek to extract the maximum value from its assets (including advertising opportunities) can expect to face lawsuits for negligence or mismanagement from shareholders. This means that, even things which are nominally paid for by a consumer (such as films, video games and, yes, potato chips) are being peppered with ads and product placement, because otherwise that would be an economic opportunity wasted, a big no-no under the dominant Reaganite/Thatcherite ideology of our time.

The next step will be for lawmakers to recognise that there is an implicit contractual obligation by consumers to view and pay attention to advertisements attached to any advertisement-supported service they receive, and to enshrine this in law and international treaties. After all, the business models of ad-supported content are dependent on the implicit agreement of the consumer to pay attention to the advertisements; if consumers were to systematically shirk this obligation, the industry would collapse. In other words, ad evasion is equivalent to intellectual property piracy (which is equivalent to currency counterfeiting, which is equivalent to economic terrorism, but I digress).

At first, this will be used to ban, DMCA-fashion, ad-blocking software and rogue ad-skipping video players. Then it will become more subtle; browser windows will go dark if the ad panes are covered by another window, for example. The technology of denying benefit to ad-dodgers will attract as much venture capital, startups, patents and snake-oil merchants as the quest for the perfect uncopyable CD has. Ultimately, computers and TVs (which, by then, will have converged, possibly on a centralised broadcast model) will have gaze-tracking cameras as standard, and Microsoft Windows 2012 or whatever will have a gaze-tracking API specificially designed to be useful for ad attention enforcement.

There are 7 comments on "Attention Rights Management":

Posted by: El Bizarro Mon Mar 28 01:03:34 2005

The petrol pumps with television screens have made their way here as well, starting in Brisbane.

Posted by: adam http:// Mon Mar 28 11:24:18 2005

Oh man get a grip, we've lived with ads our whole lives. Ads are like hypnotism, it only works if you're a moron. News flash, morons have been taken advantage of since the beginning of time.

Posted by: acb Mon Mar 28 11:39:21 2005

I take it you've never found an ad annoying then?

There are already laws being proposed in US Congress which will ban ad-skipping (in the context of personal video recorders).

Posted by: Eliot M. Gelwan Mon Mar 28 21:36:07 2005

You owe it to yourself, if you are not already familiar with it, to acquaint yourself with the AdBusters people. In some sense they are already spearheading an Attentional Rights Movement, an environmentalist mvoement for the _mental_ environment.

Posted by: dj Wed Mar 30 05:24:57 2005

Have you read 'The Space Merchants'?

Posted by: acb Wed Mar 30 11:10:27 2005

Can't say I have. What is it?

Posted by: dj Fri Apr 1 01:13:32 2005

It's a novel by Fred Pohl and C M Kornbluth. Quiet old sci-fi (written over fifty years ago) that is considered one of the classics by many. I remember reading a reprinted ediition of it from my public library when I was a teenager. It has some prescient and amusing/disturbing examples of advertising and corporate culture along the lines you describe and that we are unfortunately becoming more exposed to.