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The Heart's Content: Media and Marketing after the Attention Economy

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The Heart's Content: Media and Marketing after the Attention Economy

Hunt, Robert (2018) The Heart's Content: Media and Marketing after the Attention Economy. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Capturing user attention and selling it to advertisers has long served as the basic economic model for online media. In this thesis, I investigate these companies’ growing desire to go deeper—to plumb their users’ hearts and minds, to transform their emotions into quantifiable data, and to sell those feelings to marketers. To shed light on the recent history of this trend, I take up the website Upworthy as a key case study in online publishers’ efforts to negotiate an attention economy in flux. By analyzing the evolving methods Upworthy used to capture, measure, and sell reader attention to clients, I trace their audience engagement and revenue generation strategies along a trajectory from attention to emotion to empathy. As the attention economy becomes more complex, the perceived need to monitor and measure the psychological, emotional, and affective dimensions of user engagement grows. Biometric emotion-detection technology provides a means to examine the ramifications of these proliferating forms of psychological surveillance and datafication, including their potential to reinforce hegemonic emotional norms. Finally, with the possibility of what I call the “empathy economy” on the horizon, I consider empathy’s political implications, the intimate data and sensitive technology that such an economy would require, and the forms of emotional commodification, standardization, and optimization it could engender.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Hunt, Robert
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Media Studies
Date:28 March 2018
Thesis Supervisor(s):McKelvey, Fenwick
ID Code:983653
Deposited By: ROBERT HUNT
Deposited On:11 Jun 2018 01:44
Last Modified:17 Sep 2018 20:40
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