Abstract Details

The Social Dimension of Phenomenal Consciousness: What the Economy of Attention Reveals About the Reality and Effectiveness of the "How It feels" Type of Self-awareness  Georg Franck (Digital Methods in Architecture, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria)   C12

Narcissism, whether you take it as excessive self-regard and overblown pride, is far from being self-centred only. It is both resolutely selfish and eminently social. It entangles egotism with the addiction to other people's attention. The ego's core concern is self-esteem. But the self-esteem one can afford eminently depends on one's income of appreciative attention. Receiving attention means to play a role in the consciousness of the payer. The role one plays in other consciousness refers to phenomenality in a two-fold way: First, we are addicted to attention not because we are enchanted by the idea of our personal data being processed by the neural machinery of a biological computer, but by the idea of being welcomed in a sphere of experience other than our own but existing likewise in the mode of mental presence and endowing its attention with feelings. Second, self-esteem is an elaborated form of the feeling of "how it is to be" the subject one is. Both self-esteem's own nature and the nature of the other consciousness it depends upon are distinctively phenomenal. The economy of attention is what the egos' concern about the space occupied in fellow consciousness amounts to on the collective level. It embodies the system of wealths of attention that the social gradient of kudos, renown, reputation, prestige, prominence and fame goes back to. It lies at the base of so-called celebrity culture as well as of the business model of those new media that has replaced the sale of content with the supply of attraction services sold to the advertising industry. The reality and relevance of the economy of attention are testified not least by the business model of the most prosperous firms of present-day economy. The paper goes into the question of whether the project of a science of consciousness shouldn't make use of the sociologically real economy of attention as an informal, out-of-lab, large-scale experiment concerning the empirical proof of that which so far has eluded (neuroscientific) instrumental observation. Even in hardcore science, there are phenomena finding acknowledgement despite evading instrumental observation. The paradigm case is dark matter. Dark matter eludes observation as does sentience; it nevertheless is standardly acknowledged in cosmology for the reason of rendering observations intelligible that neither Newtonian gravity nor general relativity can explain. Sentience, though certainly not acting as a substance, plays an analogous role in the endeavour of making sense of the well-observed economy of attention. It is hopeless to theorize this economy without referring to the pursuit of self-esteem and to the motivational power of the anxiety about featuring in other consciousness. It is hopeless, in turn, to theorize this anxiety without accounting for the spiritual nature of both our own and fellow consciousnesses. Phenomenal consciousness, to make the somewhat daring comparison, is to attention economy what dark matter is to cosmology. Nobody has ever observed sentience as experienced subjectively, but it is good practice to deal with the capability, known by acquaintance, as a working hypothesis.