IMCA Research Seminar - Enrico Campo, Università degli Studi di Milano Statale


Institute of Marketing and Communication Management

Date: 18 April 2024 / 12:30 - 13:30

Room A-13

Politics of Attention Reconsidered: Between Measurement and Care


My presentation focuses on the semantic shift of the “attention economy” concept within the prevailing discourses surrounding digital technologies. It shows that, while until a few years ago the “attention economy” referred to a democratic and horizontal economic system that digital technologies made possible, today this term rather refers to the harmful effects of such technologies. However, I highlight in particular that both critical and enthusiastic perspectives share a common assumption: that attention is a resource – to be protected for the former, to be exploited for the latter. Against this backdrop, the paper calls into question this assumption and prefers to investigate under what conditions attention becomes a resource. Tracing the historical and epistemological roots of the attention-as-resource metaphor, my contribution shows that the diffusion of this metaphor since the 1990s was closely linked to scientific and technological measurement requirements, but also responded to ideological concerns. Thus, building on the sociology of quantification, the paper highlights how measurement processes not only quantify attention but also shape its common perception and value, obscuring its social dimensions. Lastly, the paper calls for a conceptual shift from viewing attention only as a quantifiable commodity to understanding it in relation to “care,” emphasizing its relational, affective, and contextual nature. This alternative perspective challenges dominant market-driven narratives, inviting a nuanced understanding of human interdependence.


Enrico Campo is a research fellow of Sociology at the Department of Philosophy, University of Milan (Italy) where he teaches Sociological theory. His research interests also include sociology of knowledge and the study of the relations among culture, technology and cognition. He is the author of Attention and its Crisis in Digital Society (Routledge 2022), co-editor of Politics of Curiosities. Alternatives to the Attention Economy (with Yves Citton, Routledge, 2024) and Exploring the Crisis. Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Investigations (with Andrea Borghini, Pisa University Press 2015).