Today I was in class (I team-teach a Theatre Management class every other year) and we were discussing various forms of publicity, marketing and advertising for theatre. Our discussion briefly devolved into a theatre vs. cinema comparison and pondering ticket prices. I pointed out that movies are a commodity (a given movie can be many places at the same time) and that theatre is relatively scarce (live theatre is a one-time deal)–one reason that theatre tickets are priced higher than movie tickets.
This got me thinking a little bit about the way I value my own tasks. At some point, I decide what to work on. The attention economy says (I think) that I should value highest those things that are most scarce. In reality, though, I don’t always work like that.
I face these choices every single day…
- Which to pay attention to: the person in my doorway, or the email that just came in? The email will be there in an hour, but the person might get hit by a beer truck. That means the person is more scarce, so I should spend my attention with them. Why is it so hard to tear my eyes away from the computer?
- Which to pay attention to: the book I want to read, or my kids? I should always choose my kids since they’re the most scarce (though they always seem amazingly abundant to me), but somehow the book occasionally wins.
- Which to pay attention to: the marketing plan that needs my attention by next Tuesday, or the overflowing inbox on my desk that’s staring at me?
Clearly there are other considerations than "which is most scarce" when deciding to what I should pay attention. Still an interesting line of thought, though.