On the Duty to Be an Attention Ecologist

Philosophy and Technology 35 (1):1-22 (2022)
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The attention economy — the market where consumers’ attention is exchanged for goods and services — poses a variety of threats to individuals’ autonomy, which, at minimum, involves the ability to set and pursue ends for oneself. It has been argued that the threat wireless mobile devices pose to autonomy gives rise to a duty to oneself to be a digital minimalist, one whose interactions with digital technologies are intentional such that they do not conflict with their ends. In this paper, we argue that there is a corresponding duty to others to be an attention ecologist, one who promotes digital minimalism in others. Although the moral reasons for being an attention ecologist are similar to those that motivate the duty to oneself, the arguments diverge in important ways. We explore the application of this duty in various domains where we have special obligations to promote autonomy in virtue of the different roles we play in the lives of others, such as parents and teachers. We also discuss the consequences of our arguments for employers, software developers, and policy makers.

Author Profiles

Tim Aylsworth
Florida International University
Clinton Castro
Florida International University


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