In his book Learning How to Learn
, author Idries Shah
argues that one of the keys to understanding human behavior
is understanding the attraction, extension, reception, and interchange of attention
. He states that many types of human transactions (e.g. commercial or social) are, in reality, disguised attention-related interactions. Thus, even if a person might believe that she is, for example, discussing her purchasing needs with a shopkeeper, she might, in reality, be motivated by the receipt or exchange of attention.
Shah states that the desire for attention begins in infancy, at which point it is linked to feeding and protection. In adulthood, attention continues to provide a necessary type of satisfaction.
He then compares this attention need (or hunger) with the more tangible hunger for food. He notes that humans are currently aware of their hunger for food. They generally know how and when to satisfy it. People may not do a perfect job in satisfying their hunger (by eating too many sweets, for example), but at least they do not eat completely randomly. Since we are not as aware of our attention needs, however, we tend to treat the attention-factor in a less sophisticated manner. Our attention desires ebb and flow, but we are not aware of these changes. We remain confused about how, where, when, and how much attention we need to acquire. Thus, if we meet our attention needs early in the day, we might call it a great day without really knowing why. On the other hand, if we haven't met our attention needs for some time, we might be "starving for attention" yet blame our dissatisfaction on some other source.
Shah argues that most people are stimulated by offers of attention, since most people are often attention-deprived. He also notes that attention can be either 'hostile' or 'friendly', yet still fulfill the desire for attention. In addition, receiving attention alone is not enough -- we need to give attention to feel fulfilled.
Shah further believes that people could be more productive and happy if their attention-related activities were placed under volitional control.
This node is a mere summary of Shah's ideas, and I strongly recommend reading the book (pp. 85-88) if you find this subject interesting. The reason that I bring it up here, however, is that I think it relates to E2.
Specifically, E2's voting/experience system can be looked at as a vehicle to exchange attention. When you vote on someone else's node you are giving a small amount of attention to the noder. The noder receives this attention in the form of a positive or negative vote. A C!ing represents a concentrated jolt of attention. Moreover, the cumulative attention received and given by the noder is physically displayed to the rest of the community in the "Other Users" column, in which the most experienced users are listed at the top and the least experienced listed at the bottom.
This attention is ultimately the main reward that the noder receives for adding to the database, since we aren't (yet) paid for noding. Importantly, the worst punishment that the community can impose on a noder is the removal of her node from the database, since that results in a complete loss of attention.
The E2 community as a whole benefits from this attention marketplace as well. People who add good material are rewarded with lots of positive attention, and this encourages them to continue to provide quality material. Meanwhile, negative attention in the form of downvotes can stimulate noders to improve the quality of their work. Finally, people who thrive on negative attention and therefore contribute only garbage end up being completely removed from the community by having their works marked for destruction.