Oslo Mind Group Seminar: Kaisa Kärki, Autonomy of Attention

We will be discussing a draft of "Autonomy of Attention" by Kaisa Kärki.

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What precisely does a distraction threaten? An agent who spends an inordinate amount of time attending to her smartphone even though this behavior is against her own goals – what precisely is she lacking? In this paper I develop conceptual resources to answer these questions. I suggest that whereas agency of attention is an agent’s non-automatic decision-making on what she currently pays attention to, autonomy of attention is an agent, through her second-order desires, effectively interfering with her non-automatic decision-making on what she currently pays attention to. Freedom of attention is an agent’s possibility to hold or switch her focus of attention without fixating on any specific focus against her will or without forced or manipulated distraction from chosen foci. I will further argue that autonomy of attention requires some degree of attention capital, namely the agent’s understanding of how attention works, appreciation of the value of various attention-requiring tasks, her attention skills supported by her environment and her ability and motivation to develop and regulate them. This is because especially when attention is treated as a commodity, to regulate one’s attention according to one’s own values, what is in jeopardy and commodified has to be noticed, known, and valued. The conceptual work done helps detect attention-related freedom-deficits, which in turn provide conceptual resources to track various manipulations and coercions that diminish a person’s freedom of attention. This framework is useful when developing the moral and legal attention rights of citizens to protect them from various manipulations of attention when this kind of protection is perceived to be of value.

How to attend

This is a read-ahead seminar. The meetings have an hybrid format. We meet in person in GM 207 and digitally on Zoom (Zoom login required).

The meeting link, along with a copy of the paper to be discussed, will be made available in advance via the mailing list.


Mirela Fus and Francesca Secco
Published Sep. 10, 2021 10:57 AM - Last modified Sep. 11, 2022 9:44 AM