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The production of information in the attention economy

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Project Production and consumption of information in large-scale social media
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Scientific Reports
Volume (Issue) 5
Page(s) 9452 - 9452
Title of proceedings Scientific Reports
DOI 10.1038/srep09452

Open Access

URL http://www.nature.com/articles/srep09452
Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)

Abstract

Online traces of human activity offer novel opportunities to study the dynamics of complex knowledge exchange networks, in particular how emergent patterns of collective attention determine what new information is generated and consumed. Can we measure the relationship between demand and supply for new information about a topic? We propose a normalization method to compare attention bursts statistics across topics with heterogeneous distribution of attention. Through analysis of a massive dataset on traffic to Wikipedia, we find that the production of new knowledge is associated to significant shifts of collective attention, which we take as proxy for its demand. This is consistent with a scenario in which allocation of attention toward a topic stimulates the demand for information about it, and in turn the supply of further novel information. However, attention spikes only for a limited time span, during which new content has higher chances of receiving traffic, compared to content created later or earlier on. Our attempt to quantify demand and supply of information, and our finding about their temporal ordering, may lead to the development of the fundamental laws of the attention economy, and to a better understanding of social exchange of knowledge information networks.
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