Course Description and Syllabus
ATTENTION! – Interdisciplinary* takes
on an Endangered Resource
*(Art, Science, Technology, Business, Religion and Politics)
Dr. Alan Prohm – firstname.lastname@example.org
Programm: Vielfalt der Wissensformen
Institut: Heinrich von Helmholz Zentrum für Kulturtechnik / bologna.lab – Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Zeit: Freitags 10-12
Ort: Dorotheenstr. 24 im 4. OG (Raum 2.402)
Sprache: Vorträge und Texte vorwiegend Englisch; Diskussion und eigene Arbeiten auch gern Deutsch
Zielgruppe: MA und fortgeschrittene BA
Before there is any object of science there is this one. To take anything in, to notice and consider anything, to start any process of knowing there is first a process of attending. Attention is at the tip of all science, but what is the science of attention? Is it hard or soft? Pseudo- or serious? Theoretical or applied? With what instruments can we observe it? What is it made of, and how does it work, that it can be paid, caught, drawn, stolen, tracked, sold, captured, shortened, trained, strengthened, and maybe saved? The central question we will be asking is What is in store and at stake for human attention in the 21st Century? We will approach this by questioning our object of study, attention itself, each time from a different perspective as an object of study in a different discipline, science, industry or cultural practice. Our readings and discussions will touch on philosophy, cognitive science, psychotherapy, spiritual practice, sociology, media theory, art theory and experimental art practice, marketing strategy and communications design theory, governance strategy, economic theory, pedagogy, self-help and social activism. At each step we will gain a richer grasp on this vital energy and organ at the core of our being conscious and acting human.
Seminar sessions will be based around weekly readings, student-prepared discussions and contextualizing lectures by the seminar leader. One or more guest lecturers and one or more off-campus visits will complete our exploration of our topic, and open new perspectives of research on it.
Expected student involvement includes attendance, participation in discussions, one in-class presentation, individual research (theoretical or practical) on a question of one’s own choosing, and a final research report or paper.
Starting from a foundational text in the constitution of attention as an object for modern philosophy and psychology, William James’ chapter on attention in the Principles of Pyschology, we will trace a number of arcs around this psychologically and epistemologically central yet elusive topic. One arc links James’ text with contemporary fronts in cognitive neuroscience. Another links Paul Klee’s contemporaneous art-science of “the wandering viewpoint” with concepts in the reception aesthetics of Wolfang Iser’s in The Act of Reading. Another arc looks at attention and the central role it is given in the Abhidamma philosophical tradition and in Vipassana and Zen meditation traditions. Next we see how concepts and questions of attention have been framed in contemporary discourses on mediality, post-human consciousness and mental health, from Marshall McLuhan’s “extensions” of the senses to Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and its resonances in the late age of the smartphone. From here we come easily to look at ventures in the testing and enhancement of attention, like the various Attention Training methods and services, as well as to the whole field of efforts at quantifying and exploiting knowledge of attention through methods of cognitive marketing, productized and productizing in software and analysis services like those of Eyetracking.com. The last of these arcs brings us full-circle into a symptomology of our late stage of capitalist society, with attention at the heart of its contested cognitive economy. Through an assembly of perspectives around this endangered resource, we hope to find vectors and leverage for thinking attention’s remedy and evolutions.
Weekly meetings (Friday a.m. 10-12), with occasional longer sessions (10-13) and two possible outings. Work includes weekly readings, participation in seminar sessions, independent research, a small presentation and a final paper or project. The language of the course will be English, though readings and portions of the discussion can also be in German.
Each session will begin with a thematic introduction from a different perspective of inquiry into attention, delivered by the seminar leader, alternately with presentations by the students. The rest of the time will be given to discussion on the weekly main reading and optional side readings and to preparation and discussion of two brief studies students will carry out themselves, of attention in media, design and the environment (see assignments).
William James, “Attention” Ch. XI in The Principles of Psychology Vol 1, 1899
Bernard Baars, from In the Theater of Consciousness, 1997
Michael Posner, from The Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention, 1998/2004
Parasuraman & Davies eds, “Preface” pp. xi-xvi in Varieties of Attention, Orlando: Academic Press, 1984
Parasuraman ed., The Attentive Brain, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000 (orig. 1998)
Paul Klee, from Das bildnerische Denken, (1956)
Wolgang Iser, from Akt des Lesens: Theorie ästhetischer Wirkung, 1976
Madeline Gins and Arakawa, from The Architectural Body, 2002
Herbert Bayer, The Fundamentals of Exhibition Design, 1937
Bakker and Niemantsverdriet, “The Interaction-Attention Continuum: Considering Various Levels of Attention in Interaction Design”, 2016
Bikkhu Bodhi, from A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, 2003
S.N. Goenka, Vipassana Talks, 2002
Suzuki Roshi, from Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, 1970
Marshall Macluhan, from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964
Jackson, Maggie, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, 2009
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, 2010
Luciana Parisi, “Automated Cognition and Capital,” in Warren Neidich, The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism, 2016
Derber, Charles, The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Individualism in Everyday Life, 1979McGuire, Andrew, Pathology of Attention, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969
Searle, John R., Intentionality: an Essay in the Philosophy of Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983
Rötzer, Florian ed., Ressource Aufmerksamkeit: Ästhetik in der Informationsgesellschaft, Kunstforum Bd. 148 Dezember 1999-Januar 2000
Thomas Davenport, from The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business, 2002
Lanham, Richard A., The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006
Fehmi, Les and Robbins, Jim, The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Body and Mind, Boston: Trumpeter Press, 2007
Wu, Tim, The Attention Merchants : The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, New York: Random House, 2017
This is the actual course as it was conducted in moodle:
ATTENTION: Interdisciplinary Takes on an Endangered Resource
Abschnitte dieses Kurses
What is Attention? James’ introspective start to a science of attention
reading: James Principles of Pychology, Vol 1 Ch XI “Attention”, New York: Dover Editions, 1950 pp. 402-58
Next: Parasuraman & Davies eds, “Preface” in Varieties of Attention, Orlando: Academic Press, 1984 pp. xi-xvi
Awareness Practice and Attention in the Buddhist Wisdom Tradition
We will be hosted for this session by Tenzin Peljor, ordained buddhist monk, at the Tibetan Buddhist center Bodhicharya in Friedrichshain:
Kinzigstrasse 25 – 29 | 10427 Berlin – Friedrichshain | Anfahrt (Google Maps Link)
PLAN: We will meet in Friedrichshain at 20:00 for a preparatory tea or coffee: (precise location of rendez-vous tbd; within a short walk of Bodhicharya)
From 20:30 to 22:00 we will meet with Tenzin Peljor, to hear what he has to say about awareness practice and “attention” in the Buddhist wisdom tradition.
I will add here a few relevant readings, which however are intended to be read later.
Hints:Shantideva: Translator’s Introduction, “The Benefits of the Awakening Mind” p. 3-9 and “Guarding Alertness” p.37-56, from A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, 8th CenturyS.N. Goenka, Vipassana Discourses 1990, in particular Day 1 p.6-11 and Day 6 p.41-50; the Buddha’s original teaching of meditation in this form (Vipassana) is preserved in the Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta
Bikkhu Bodhi Ch. IV “Compendium of the Cognitive Process” pp.149-162/-178 from A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidamma
»Anatomie des Geistes – Wissen und Anwendung« mit Nicola Hernádi19:30 – 21 Uhr – Bodhicharya, Mediationsraum 1 – Kinzigstrasse 25 – 29 | 10427 Berlin
In Grundzügen wird vorgestellt, wie der Buddhismus das Phänomen Geist lehrt, und dieses Verständnis in der Praxis zum Einsatz kommt. Dabei werden wesentliche Punkte unseres unbewussten Erlebens, unsere Wahrnehmungs-Filter und die Verfestigung bewusster Inhalte in Form von Sprache unter die Lupe genommen sowie die Schulung der Aufmerksamkeit und ihre Wirkung auf die unterschiedlichen Tätigkeiten und Modi des Geistes erläutert. Zusätzlich lassen tantrische Methoden die Lenkung von Geist und Prana erspüren. Eine Reise durch den eigenen Geist.
(This lecture also helps provide a review/overview of Carr’s argument: – his key thesis is argued e.g. between minute 14:30 and 17:14)
New Readings:Shantideva: Translator’s Introduction, “The Benefits of the Awakening Mind” p. 3-9 and “Guarding Alertness” p.37-56, from A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, 8th CenturyS.N. Goenka, Vipassana Discourses 1990, in particular Day 1 p.6-11 and Day 6 p.41-50; or in the video discourses: (Day One excerpt for discussion min 35:00-40:00) – (Day Six excerpt for discussion min 14:00-20:00)Opt:the Buddha’s original teaching of meditation in this form (Vipassana) is preserved in the Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta
Bikkhu Bodhi Ch. IV “Compendium of the Cognitive Process” pp.149-162/-178 from A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidamma
This session will be primarily dedicated to discussion of essay topics.
The Wandering Viewpoint and concepts for attention in modern art theory and reception aesthetics
Three texts from art theory
Wassily Kandinsky CH. 1 “Point” in Point and Line to Plane 1926/tr.1947, pp. 23-54 plus Diagrams on pp.148-157
Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Ch. 2 Landing Sites in Architectural Body 2002
The Wandering Viewpoint in Theories of Aesthetic Reception
“Directing Gase in Narrative Art”, McNamara, Booth, and Sridharan, in the Proceedings of SAP 2012 – ACM Symposium on Applied Perception, 2012
Wolfgang Iser, “Grasping a Text”, Chapter 5 in The Act of Reading: a Theory of Aesthetic Response, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978 – esp.pp. 108-129 (70-86 in the SCRIBD document; formatting is off, but readable)
(We will meet Dr. Marcus Rothkirch at 9:55 at the Orange #5 on the map – entrance from Luisenstrasse, go through to Rahel-Hirsch-Weg 5, meet at entrance to that building)
Research Paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811911005970?via%3Dihub
Eye-Tracking research in general:
The Role of Fixational Eye Movements in Visual Perception, Martinez-Conde, Macknik and Hubel, Nature, 2004
Eye Movements in Reading and Information Processing: 20 Years of Research, Keith Rayner, Psychological Bulletin, 1998
The Interface of Language, Vision, and Action: Eye Movements and the Visual World, eds. John Henderson and Fernanda Ferreira, Psychology Press, 2004My Attention Tracking research:Original MediaX Project, Stanford University 2001-02Attention Tracking Paper:Prototype Online Attention Tracking tool:
New Horizons for Attention Technologies, Machine Awareness and Artificial Cognition
Eye-Tracking Guide: https://imotions.com/eyetracking-guide-ebook/
Testing Services: http://www.eyetracking.com/Services/Usability-Testing
Marketing Services: http://www.eyetracking.com/Services/Marketing-Research
Psychopathologies of Life in the 21st Century
“Loose Coexistence: Technologies of Attention in the Age of the Post-Metropolis”, Elie During in Cognitive Architecture: from Biopolitics to Noopolitics. Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information, Hauptmann and Neidich, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010
Jackson, “Awareness: the Post-Human Age” in Distracted, 2009 (p. 183-212)