Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Short Attention Spans and the Media

Posted by emilybrown840 on May 1, 2013

My paper topic is about how media is causing an increase of short attention spans in the population and how the media is adapting to this change. The media is finding many different ways to catch and keep their audiences attention. One of the many ways they are doing this is with interconnecting social media sites and T.V. shows. With this they can easily keep the audience interested and have it where they aren’t really concentrating on one thing, thus their attention can be switched back and forth- this has the added bonus of also being a type of advertising for their show. Along with this shows have started putting more commercials in to once again not have their audience have to focus on one thing for too long. Social media sites keep their audience by always having something new to look at; they have a continuous amount of information being fed to the consumer so they don’t need to focus on one thing for too long.

These of course are not the only things that need to use tactics to keep the populations interest. Magazines, for example, have started using bullet point list more often so the reader can jump from one thing to another without having to concentrate on one point for too long. Newspapers even have it so that one certain stories will have to be continued on different pages so the reader doesn’t have to spend too much time staring at one page but will have to actively search out the next part. Video games and their advertisements also have started to adapt to the world of short attention spans and have added more options to keep the player entertained and interested in their game -though other argue that video games don’t cause short attention spans but help build them, either way they have to find a way to keep the attention of their consumers.  

My sister happens to be a very good example of a short attention span. She has complained to me many times about how she hates having to watch a specific show on her laptop because it prevents her from being able to browse and watch the show at the same time. She cannot make it through a movie without having her laptop by her side. She has even gotten to the point where she doesn’t even want to go to a movie theater because she would be unable to have another source of entertainment while the movie is playing. One reason why movie theaters are having a harder time gaining costumers happen to be because of people who are unwilling to turn off their phones for the amount of time the movie will be playing. One way movies are starting to fight against this is by having special offers and prizes you can do with your phones before and after the movie to keep the audience interested and feeling as if something else is coming out of them seeing the movie in theaters.

My paper will go into more detail and give more examples of how media is adapting to the short attention spans of today but this is the basic idea for my paper. 


One Response to “Short Attention Spans and the Media”

  1. Sam Ford said

    Thanks, Emily! I still want to be clear here in the balance between what I see as two separate points of inquiry. First, is the media MAKING our attention spans shorter? Or are they adapting to shortened attention spans? Do you see these as interrelated? Have you seen any evidence on one or the other? The latter seems easier to find evidence to prove than the former, since the question of whether attention spans are actually shorter and, if so, what is causing that inability to focus are difficult questions to “prove.” So, if you’re arguing that point, I’m very interested to see what studies you’ve found, etc. One thing you might want to consider is the difference between “causation” and “correlation.” Causation would refer to the idea that faster-paced media texts or an abundance of media texts, etc., is making our attention spans shorter. Correlation would find that people who watch shorter snippets or who move back and forth among a range of texts have shorter attention spans and that the two appear to occur alongside each other, but doesn’t go so far as the one causing the other. Correlation is easier to discover than “proving” causation…so it’s just something I want you to think through as you start synthesizing all the research you’ve done into your final paper this week…

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