fingers move across a page. here we are. something written to be shared and to not-be-shared.
attention economy. how does attention swirl, attract, focus? is attention a resource, or a phenomena? money: labor :: attention : ?
I am looking for the non-monetized, the non-resource-oriented, the non-scarcity-oriented version of attention. that is to say: not a rejection of attention, but alternatives to the attention vs non-attention axis.
work and practice needs axes of understanding other than monetizable / not-monetizable. to make work that is not profitable or profitable is to fit onto a narrow and uncomfortable path that seems overly constraining.
similarly, work and practice needs axes of understanding other than attention-gathering / not-attention-gathering.
why is this important to me? perhaps because I feel, more and more, the work that is interesting to me is work that is difficult to describe. the politics of materials. the joy in interfacing with spaces, the satisfaction of engaging with industry. utopian ideals expressed through logistics and budgets.
bruno latour has these chains of non-human and human elements: H-NH-NH-NH-H. a human using a non-human key in a non-human door to walk into a non-human meeting room to interface with other-humans. from his framework, meaning passes through 'chains of reference'. scientists observe materials and write down on notes and then onto paper and then into computers (excel) and then into math equations until expressed as a PDF and then debated by humans and then printed onto paper. meaning passes through medium. meaning is generated by these chains of mediums.
ideal spaces means to care for bodies.
my erratic marxism frames non-exploitative labor as the one that is transparent, that shows and displays surplus labor, that is transparent about the way large amounts of capital make it easier to earn more capital, that acknowledges labor-power and how it is used to make profit for capital-owners.
my erratic marxism frames ethical practice as understanding that we don't make money to pay for rent & food; rather, rent and wage labor are systems that occlude the real costs of living - beds, food, spaces.
ideally, radical practices are ones that care for people's bodies, not just for minds: more infrastructure/care practice, less thought leaders.
currently infrastructure practice feels like long walks at night, home depot, freighter trucks, podcasts in my ears, the endless noise of pressure washers hitting concrete. spreadsheets, gantt charts, talks with electricians and plumbers.
future infrastructure feels like events, friends in the space, dinners, moving desks around to do exciting work, all the nice things easily instagrammable, research and practices and books being made and physical experiments manifesting.
what about the chains between the two? how do you get from one to the other? a series of chains like hopscotch, or stones skipping on water, or a network graph. certainly one happens because of the other. certainly the back-of-house kitchen is where the front-of-house food is made. why this front/back division? is it necessary? are there restaurants where you eat in the kitchen? where the kitchen is around you? is this even possible within a restaurant-form? maybe the best kind of food-eating-experience is where you are cooking, and your friends are cooking and cleaning, and labor and consumption are all tangled into each other?
how do you extend the kind of affection and intention lent to food and cooking and its raw manifestation ('oh I love going to farmer's markets') to the kind of affection and intention lent to other kinds of practice and infrastructure ('oh I love being covered in motor oil gunk, doing spreadsheets, so that I can further my own research')? how are these chains made visible? or how to work with these chains that escapes the dominant axis of attention-vs-not-attention and finds some other vectors or fields understood to be utopian?
perhaps this is the field of architecture exerting its hold onto me, the 19th C myth of the Romantic mad genius still prevailing, of uniqueness being the primary expression of difference and authorial intent, of authorial intent itself being a primary understanding of architectural value. or even more cynically, authorial intent is a form of market differentiation evolved from the forces of the market/capitalism. 'what makes this product more valuable? well, it's different. why is it different? well, it's designed by ____'
in interfacing with construction equipment I am yet again fascinatingly bowled over by the opaqueness of differentiation. what makes this tool better than that tool? two pressure washers, both at the same PSI and GPM, no-name brands, one is 5 times more expensive than the other.
my mind asks: which one should I pick? which one has better specifications?
it turns out: the best way to do so is to talk to people who have used it before. lived experience dominates. trusting the tool, or a contractor, is thrust back into the messy, confusing, inaccurate domain of they-said-so. there are no clear-cut names or track records or provenances here of the author, just a morass of experiences to wade through.
somehow this feels more truthful, if I can use that word. a domain of practice in which trust is messy and based on localized experiences of various different people seems both very difficult to navigate but also a strong alternative to branding, accreditation, an ascertaining of value anchored onto the branding identity of an individual/group.
somehow this feels like one alternative to an attention economy. an answer to: "oh, have you heard of X, they make this kind of work" being "I like my friend Y, and have really nice conversations with them". this is information that is not transitive, not contextless. your friend isn't necessarily my friend. "who my friends are" is understood to ultimately only be ascertainable by me. "friend value" does not operate in a market setting, with a value understood to be internalized in the 'friend'. friendship is understood in the relation between.
ah! maybe this is marx's commodity fetish applied back onto friends. the commodity fetish is the myth of value embedded into the object, whereas for marx, objects are understood only to be valuable because some human being, somewhere, spent time and effort into making it. to believe that 'things are valuable' is to forget that people made it and to imbue the object itself with some sort of holy aura of value.
friendship is a relation that resists this fetish. friendship is understood in the relation between. attention is not quite: attention is understood as value, embedded in the thing. attention is when interestedness becomes fetishised, maybe.
interest/care is in the relation between me and another thing, idea, emotion. attention is when that relation becomes embedded into the object, perhaps. objects/ideas/things/emotions/people become "attention-worthy", begin to circulate.
back to infrastructure practice. creating a space for exciting research looks like being covered in grit. cooking exciting food means having a dirty apron. fundamentally I believe this is true and truthful. how to reconcile this with aesthetics of presentation? a clean plate, a white tablecloth? where does this (understandable) impulse to hide the mode of production come from? how do we work counter to it?
and if I am interested in culinary experimentation that is about cooking with friends, potlucks, social experiments in the kitchen,
how do I explain this in a practice that wants to circulate photos of my plated dishes?