A Collaborative Archive of

Readings, Links, and Sundry Sources


From the founding of the "Friends of Attention" in 2018, the group has circulated sources of interest to those who work on attentional activism. Some of the Friends are teachers with relevant syllabi, others have collated samizdat "readers" or made showcases of attention material on Vimeo or Youtube. In 2022, David Landes (Duke University) undertook the heroic task of gathering and organizing the community to pull this material together, and he generously supplemented it with his own archive. This is a live and growing repository of material we think is of value to anyone who cares about radical human attention, and forms of resistance to attentional commodification.


Have additions and ideas?  Please email David.

 Table of Contents
Welcome-To-Attention Texts [non-scholarly]

Unflattening, Nick Sousanis, p.1-60. Mostly pictures, a fast read. A graphical introduction attention, knowledge, and media.  For a more targeted example of a media-constructed attention in the comic form, see Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud.

Two Ways Of Seeing A River, Mark Twain. 1p. Example situation with two attentional types for navigating a steamboat; seeing the same river with novice vs. expert attentions, looking at vs looking through.  Annotated version with lesson notes.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight, Clifford Geertz, from The Interpretation of Cultures, 21p.  Example of interpretive anthropology where culture is read like a text.  Example method: thick description (rather than thin description)

Theory as a Way of Seeing and Thinking, Stan Deetz, 6p. Seeing is a theory-laden process; observation requires concepts; our observations result from our starting theories, which function to direct attention, organize experience, and enable useful responses

Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, Leonard Koren. An example aesthetic as a mode of attention; contrasted with modernism

Exercises in Style: 21st Century Remix, Bethany Brownholtz. A two-paragraph narrative retold through different genres; example of 40 attentional modes taken upon 1 thing

Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff. Metaphors shape attention, not just via representation but also shaping the literal.  Subtle metaphors pervade literal language, providing an implicit "conceptual system" that crafts logics and scaffolds sequences of action.  

The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman, Ch 1&4.  A language for how designed objects shape attention; e.g., constrains, affordances, system maps, signifiers

The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Marshall McLuhan.  A language for describing how media technologies interface with the body to shape the media that attention occurs through.  Presented as an anti-book that performs it's own bookness by breaking textual conventions.  The effect: to artfully disrupt your readerly routines, stoke attentional self-awareness, recover lost possibilities in a given medium

    • Audio Version: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Marshall McLuhan (Audio version to compare with the written version.  The anti-book in audio format!  Performs the same concepts in the auditory "accoustic space" rather than the texts "visual space".  Best to read the text and listen to the audio in tandem)
    • Marshall McLuhan’s Theory of Attention: How to Become a Media Psychonaut, David Landes. Lists & explains McLuhan’s concepts of attention in the section titled McLuhan’s Implicit Attentional Concepts of Eco-Formed Attention p.3-7.  Concepts discussed: figures and grounds, clichés and archetypes, metaphor, environment, sense-configuration, and media.

Keys to Drawing, Bert Dodson, p.8-25 of the original page numbers (p.9-26 of the pdf). Wonderful example of how an art/craft is taught through training its underlying attentions. Example of simple, clear, powerful training to develop ongoing attentional self-awareness. Reading Notes.

Serious Noticing, James Wood.  3 revisions of the same 8-page essay about attention. An argument for literary types of attention involved in storytelling and human observation.  Serious noticing is both method and product of storycraft.  Reading all 3 drafts shows Wood reworking his own storycraft, role modeling how one arrives at serious noticing through text

  1st version, 2010

  2nd version, 2013

  3rd version, 2014 

  Reading Notes

Why the World Needs ‘Dataism,’ the New Art Movement That Helps Us Understand How Our World Is Shaped by Big Data Article: art thru the lens of data and data literacy; positions art as attention engines to teach what words can't

Thank You For Arguing, Jay Heinrichs Ch 1-6, 12, 20-22, 24-25. Rhetorical concepts that function as ways of attending to/through argument.  Reading notes of how his rhetorical concepts are also attentional.

Fourteen Ways to Interpret the Constitution, Brad Reid. [4p. Great fast illustration of “the hermeneutic question”: choosing an interpretive lens in any situation, especially in law by these 14 common lenses to legal interpretation]

Attention-Related Videos [non-scholarly]

To See or Not To See, Bretislav Pojar, 1969, 14 min. Ignore the film’s reductive binary argument ("how sould we look at the world, realistically or not?"). Useful is its depiction of attention as our inner author--an active, social, emotional, layered capacity for constructing experience

How Does an Editor Think and Feel?, Every Frame a Painting, 9 min. Example attn situation: how a film scene is edited changes in the audience’s experience and meaning. There are no rules or consistent “right answers” of how to do it well. For the film editor, each scene is its own attention situation, requiring decisions on how to construct it based on their goal and sense of audience attention.

Century of the Self, Adam Curtis, 4 1-hour videos. Documentary telling the story of history’s largest and most sophisticated attention industry.  Provides a context of where our common “normal” kinds of attention come from and how their manufacture aims for "consumption beyond reason".

Santa Goes to Therapy 4 min. Santa character read through the lens of psychotherapy. The language of mental-health diagnosis recasts the familiar Santa Claus.  This use of psychology language concludes Santa exhibits schizotypal personality disorder. Demonstrates linguistic framing. Imagine refuting this argument within the same language of psychology (e.g., alternative diagnoses, altruism, trauma).  Imagine refuting or supplimenting this diagnosis with a non-psychological discourse (labor, nationality, race, class, gender, etc.)

Why Baseball is Interesting, Daniel Coffeen, 1p. An interpretation of baseball through some new attentions you might never have used. Every paragraph takes a new attentional lens to a part of the game. Makes the familiar unfamiliar. 

The Hidden Sensory World of Animals, Ed Yong, 9min. Different non-human sense organs create different attns

Fake Sounds Companies Add to Products, 9 min. The sonic configuration of attn. More of your world is designed for consumer experience than you may realize. Sensations (e.g., sounds) have associations of meaning. We are unconscious of many aural interpretations

How The Microphone Changed the Way We Sing, 7 min. Media shape attn, action, and art. A case study of how a new technology imposes technical parameters that a culture adapts to. Certain genres, styles, details become possible that weren’t before. Much (all?) of a culture is a result of its technological arrangement. Abstract ideas (e.g., “love”) are experienced in the image of its technology (e.g., microphone).  Parallels: cameras, computers, automobiles, etc.

"Friends": Ross Geller without laugh track = psychopath, 2 min. Removing a material part changes everything. The change of music, color, and laugh track changes meanings, character, and whole scene

History of Media Literacy Part 1, 9 min. And Part 2 9 min. Media and technology are ubiquitously forces of attention. Consider the difference between a first introduction occurring in person vs. over texting. vs. through snapchat vs. telephone. The medium shapes attention (recall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage above). “With every new medium, a new set of skills is required to navigate it.” “This history of media literacy closely follows the history of media technology.”

Blind and deaf people can teach us much about our senses, which are attention’s materialities
Seeing through One’s Ears, human echo-location, 3 min. 
    • Sound indicates “contour, dimension, size, position, layout, texture, density” about the environment
The Ben Underwood Miracle, 3 min. 
    • “I can hear the wall, I can hear the couch, and the TV and computer”
How Do Blind People Dream?, 1 min  
Describing Colors as a Blind Person, 3 min. 
Intangible Concepts To A Blind Person, 4 min. 
    • Born blind & explaining his perception of the sun, sky, fog, Great Wall of China, Grand Canyon, and space.

The body’s rhythms are always changing, 3 min.  “The body, the heart, doesn’t have the same time-length between each heartbeat.  If they’re the same, that’s extremely dangerous…  The more exact the time-measures, the more dangerous…  That means your body is not responding.  It must respond…”
Smell, the forgotten sense, has untapped possibilities 
Smellosophy: What the Nose tells the Mind, Ann Sophie Barwich 0:00 - 31:00 Q&A onward 
    • The science of olfaction, the “language” of the nose is different than the other senses.
What Can the Experience of Smell Tell Us About Art?, Ann Sophie Barwich 
    • examples of smell-art and how we underutilize the nose

How Language Shapes the Way We Think, Lera Boroditsky 14 min.
    • Evidence of particular ways in which the structure of language relates to the structure of thought/attention
    • Exemplifies the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The Science of Linguistic Relativity, Robert Sapolsky, 6 min. 
    • Same as Boroditsky’s topic but with a little more explanation and implications for your thinking about Essays
    • Exemplifies the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis




Legal analysis of the Laws Broken in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory 21 min but can watch to 6:30 and skip to 18:26 for the final verdict and summary of legal liability. If you know the law, you’ll see this film differently.  Meanings are remade.  For example, how the opening premise of the film are illegal (child labor violation, illegal lottery). Law is exemplary of how symbols (e.g., knowing the law itself) changes the way you see. I hope you have seen this film for this class example.  Otherwise, I probably ruined the film for you… or made it attentionally more interesting :)

What makes good acting on screen? A slo-mo analysis, 8.5 min. This slow-motion analysis may change the way you watch actors and make you more self-aware of their silences and conveying of internal/mental activity. “Good acting” is more than about merely resembling the outward appearance of things.  It’s about conveying the inward significance of things via “noble lies” that enhance the storytelling fullness. [I’m adapting Aristotle’s and Picasso’s ideas of art here]

How To Do Nothing, Jenny Odell, 37 min [ignore the Q&A after] 

Attention-Related Texts by Theme
History of Attention

Mc Mahon, Ciarán, The Prehistory of the Concept of "Attention" (Table of Contents and Summary)

Mole, Christopher, "Attention", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle  -  Essay version

Crary, Introduction and Ch.1 Modernity and the Problem of Attention, from Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture

Rogers, The Attention Complex: Media, Archeology, Method [the follow up to Crary’s Suspensions of Perception]

Critical Sociology of Attention

Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, from Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays

Berman, Preface and Introduction, from All That is Solid Melts Into Air

Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Marx and Engels, The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas, from The German Ideology

Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life, from Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms

Attention and Interpretation

Berger, Ways of Seeing (Note to the Reader, pp.7-11 & video version Episode 1)

Sontag, Against Interpretation and On Photography

Gadamer, Truth and Method

Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory Of Knowledge

Shiner, The Invention of Art

Serious Noticing, James Wood.  Read his 3 revisions of the same 8-page essay about attention. [example of what professional revisions look like. Students found it insightful to see the changes he makes and the resulting effects. Also exemplifies Essay #2 by arguing that his “serious” attns are better than the common attns people use for storytelling.  And stories are pervasive to most perception/interpretation in most any AS]


Communication and Attention

McGee,“The 'Ideograph': A Link Between Rhetoric and Ideology

Oakley, From Attention to Meaning: Explorations in Semiotics, Linguistics, and Rhetoric

Burke, Definition of Man and Terministic Screens, from Language and Symbolic Action: Essays of Life, Literature and Method
    • Burke, Part 1 of Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (A Treatise on Communication) 
    • Burke, Semantic and Poetic Meaning, 

Kenneth Burke Psychology and Form, from Counter-Statement

Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word

Crosswhite, The Future of Attention

Politics of Attention

John Dewey, The Public and It's Problems

Walter Lippman, Public Opinion

James and Baumgartner, The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems


Attention Science

Harold Pashler, Introduction, from The Psychology of Attention

Shifrin, “Attention,” from Handbook of Experimental Psychology


Attention and Everyday Life

Winifred Gallagher, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

David Foster-Wallace, On Life and Work

Nicholson Baker, Changes of Mind, from The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber

De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life


Education & Humanities As The Training of Attention

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, David Foster Wallace. (4 pages)  Audio delivery of the same speech.

The Humanities as Arts of Attention in the Age of Computational Mediarchy, Yves Citton (From 46:35 to 59:25) [education teaches arts of attention]

Attention and the Writing Process

Writing in College: Really? Writing? Again? [on academic writing] (10 pages)

Writing in College: What Does the Professor Want? Understanding the Assignment [on expectations]

Where Do Sentences Come From?, Verlyn Klinkenborg [on ideation, practicing dwelling patiently in the mental place where thoughts and language first merge, 2p.]

Shitty First Drafts, Anne Lamott [on revision, everyone begins with shitty first drafts and need to do at least 3, p.]

The Trouble With Intentions, Verlyn Klinkenborg [on editing, most writers don’t know the meaning of their sentences, 2p.]

Attention in Rhetoric and Poetics

Attention Literacy: A Rhetorical Approach, David Landes (30 pages) [the course theme explained]

What Does It Mean To Talk About Attention Rhetorically? 3 Paradigms For Liberal Arts Mastery: Rhetoric, Attention, Rhetorical Attention, David Landes [16p]

Semantic and Poetic Meaning, Kenneth Burke, 30p. highlighted.  Language maneuvers between two ideals, which serve different overlapping uses.  The poetic ideal: fullest meaning, drama-embracing, attitude-asserting, petitions for a style, crafts an image as preparation for an act.  The semantic ideal: narrow meaning, locates addresses, neutralizes attitude, avoids drama, eliminates style, attenuates imagery).

Forms of Poetic Attention, Introduction, Lucy Alford [table of contents + introduction p. 1-22] [example of a whole book written on the attention situation of poems.

The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information, Richard Lanham.  Preface (4 pages) [rhetoric and attention as the central disciplines for the digital economy]

Thank You For Arguing, Jay Heinrichs Ch 1-6, 12, 20-22, 24-25. [classical rhetoric concepts that function as ways of attending to/through argument].  Reading notes linking to attentional aspects.

Attention and Media

The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Marshall McLuhan [media technologies shape attention, useful vocabulary for the thingy-ness of media]
    • Audio Version: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Marshall McLuhan (Audio version to compare with the written version)

    • Marshall McLuhan’s Theory of Attention: How to Become a Media Psychonaut, David Landes. Lists & explains McLuhan’s concepts of attention in the section titled McLuhan’s Implicit Attentional Concepts of Eco-Formed Attention on p.3-7.  Concepts discussed: figures and grounds, clichés and archetypes, metaphor, environment, sense-configuration, and media.

Downs, Anthony. "Up and down with ecology: The issue-attention cycle." The public 28 (1972): 38-50.

Wu, The Attention Merchants


Cohen, Attention: Dispatches From a Land of Distraction

Foster-Wallace, Something To Do With Paying Attention

Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

Mary Oliver - Yes! No!

Attention in Phenomenology

Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception

Schrag, Experience and Being

DGB & SR Syllabus

Alexander Bain, The Emotions and the Will,  New York:D. Appleton & Co. 1888. (1888 edition in particular) 

James McKeen Cattell, "Attention and Reaction," (1893) First published as "Aufmerksamkeit und Reaction" in Philosophische Studien, 8: 403-­‐406, 1893. in, James McKeen Cattell, Man of Science 
(Vol. 1: Psychological Research, pp. 252-­‐255, R. S. Woodworth, Trans.). Lancaster, PA: The Science Press, 1947.

James L. Hughes, How to Secure and Retain Attention, Syracuse: C. W. Hardeen, 1884

James Perham Hylan, "The Fluctuation of Attention" Psychological Review, Vol. 2, No.2, March 1898. 

William James, Principles of Psychology (chapter 11, Attention)(1890), New York: Dover, 1950. 

Walter Pillsbury, Attention (1906), London: Sonnenschein, 1908. 

Thodule Ribot, The Pyschology of Attention, Chicago: Open Court, 1896. 

E. B. Titchener, Lectures on the Elementary Psychology of Feeling and Attention, New York; MacMillan, 1908. 

E. B. Titchener, “Attention as Sensory Clearness, ” Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Method 7(7), 180-­‐82, 1910. 

Lemon Uhl, Attention: A Historical Summary of the Discussions Concerning the Subject (A Dissertation), Baltimore; Johns Hopkins Press, 1891. 

Wilhelm Wundt, Outlines of Psychology (1893), trans. Charles H. Judd, Leipzig: Englemann, 1902. 

Willhelm Wundt, Principles of Physiological Psychology 1902 (see esp. section on apperception, p. 


Bruce M. Hood, Janette Atkinson, and Oliver J. Braddick, "Selection-­‐for-­‐Action and the Development of Orienting and Visual Attention" in John E. Richards, ed. Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention: A Developmental Perspective, New York: Laurence Earlbaum Associates, 1998. 

Harold Pashler ed. Attention (Studies in Cognition) Sussex: Psychology Press, 1998 

Harold Pashler, The Psychology of Attention Cambridge: MIT Press 1998   

Michael Posner, ed. Cognitive Neuroscience of Atttention 2nd Edition, New York : Guilford Press, 2012. 

Michael Posner, Attention in the Social World, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 

Elizabeth Styles, The Psychology of Attention,  New York: Psychology Press 2006. 

Ward, Anthony, Attention: A Neuropsychological Approach, New York: Psychology Press, 2004 

Masmoudi, Slim, David Yun Dai, and Abdelmajid Naceur, eds.  Attention, Representation, and Human Performance; Integration of Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation, New York: Psychology Press, 2012. 


Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (1908), New York: Zone Books, 1988.

Christopher Mole, Declan Smithies and Wayne Wo eds. Attention: Philosophical and Psychological Essays, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Christopher Mole, Attention is Cognitive Unison, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, (1949), New York: Routledge, 2009 

A. R. White, Attention, London: Oxford, 1964 


Lorraine Daston, Histories of Scientific Observation, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. John J. Gibson, An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (esp. Theory of Affordances) 

James Elkins, The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing, New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. 1996 

Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, New York: Basic Books, 1988. 

Casey O'Callaghan, "Sounds and Events" in Matthew Nudds and Casey O'Callaghan Sounds and Perception, New Philosophical Essays, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 

C. Nadia Seremetakis, "The Memory of the Senses: Historical Perception, Commensal Exchange, and Modernity" Visual Anthropology Review, Vol 9, No. 2, Fall 1993.


Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

Claire Bishop "Heightened Perception" from Installation Art: A Critical History, New York: Routledge, 2005.

T. J. Clark, The Sight of Death,  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

John Dewey, Art as Experience, (1934), New York: Doubleday, 1980.

James Elkins, The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing, New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. 1996.

Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Donald Revell, The Art of Attention; A Poet’s Eye, Saint Paul: Greywolf, 2007.

Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.


Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter, A Political Ecology of Things, Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. 

Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology: What It's Like to Be a Thing, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 2012 

Bill Brown, “Thing Theory,” in Bill Brown ed. Things, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. 

Graham Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics; Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, Chicago: Open Court, 2005. 


D. T. Suzuki, The Training of a Zen Buddhist Monk, (1934), New York: Cosimo, 2007.

Ignatious of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius (1548), New York: Doubleday, 1964. 

Wallace, Alan B. Balancing the Mind: A Tibetan Buddhist Approach to Refining Attention, 2005 Snow Lion Publications, Ithaka 


Aldous Huxley, Doors of Perception 

Hobson, J. Allan, The Dream Drugstore; Chemically Altered States of Consciousness, 2003 MIT Press, Cambridge 

Tart, Charles, Altered States of Consciousness, New York: Harper, 1990. 

Pinchbeck, Daniel, Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism, New York: Broadway books/Random House, 2002. 


Brian Bruya, ed. Effortless Attention: A New Perspective in the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action, Cambridge: MIT Press,  2010.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Brian Sutton-­‐Smith, Chapter 10: "Rhetorics of Self"in The Ambiguity of Play, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.


Veronique M. Fonti, Vision's Invisibles, Philosophical Explorations, Albany: State University of New York, 2003.

Stephen L. Macknik, Susana Martinez-­‐Conde, Sleights of Mind, New York: Picador, 2011.

Maurice Merleau-­‐Ponty, The Visible and Invisible, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969 Charles Scott, Living with Indifference, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.

Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, New York: Pluto, 2011.

Rei Tarada, Looking Away: Phenomenality and Dissatisfaction, Kant to Adorno, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Paul Virilio, The Aesthetics of Disappearance (1980), New York: Semiotext(e), 2009.


Thomas Davenport and John Beck, The Attention Economy, Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 2001. (chapters one and two)

Michael H. Goldhaber, "The Attention Economy and the Net"  First Monday, April 1997.

Richard Lanham, The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. 

Renée Ridgeway et al "Paid Usership" Northeastwestsouth­‐usership, 2011 


Crary, Johathan "Spectacle, Attention, Counter-­‐Memory," October, Vol. 50. (Autumn, 1989), pp. 96-­‐107

Debord, Guy, Society of the Spectacle, 1994, Zone Books, New York

Jonathan Beller,, The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle,  Hanover: Dartmouth University Press, 2006


Alfred Gell, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Sherry Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory, Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject, Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.

Jodi Dean, Publicity's Secrets; How Technoculture Capitalizes Democracy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.