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Slowcore Nerd Notes: On the Value of Attention

What if Farcaster channels could become "slowcore rooms"?

Slowcore Patterns of Attention

What might it mean to take a "slowcore" approach to attention in a Farcaster channel?

I asked myself this question recently while working on a separate "concept stewardship" project that I like to call attention liberation philosophy.

As Trish and I prepare to start a new channel for Black Stone Sanctuary in parallel with Slowcore HQ, I'm reflecting on the unforeseen split into two separate Farcaster channels. Can both of these emergent paths be handled in ways that respect the value of the human attention necessary for responsible stewardship and service work?

Observation: as the owner of the /slowcore-hq channel, I notice a temptation to "steer" — to actively direct my attention toward developing a slowcore business model, building a Slowcore Assembly or advisory council, and thinking up cool stuff to cast about. There are endless opportunities to overextend myself by giving the channel more attention than my extant attentional ecology can reasonably afford.

I don't think that's the right approach for these channels. Feels like getting ahead of myself.

There's more going on here than habits of hustle culture, though. There's great excitement about 1) the possibility space opened by Farcaster channels decentralizing; 2) cryptoeconomic tools being developed for channels; and 3) the upsurge of community interest in the concept of slowcore. In any event, the channel is small at the moment, which provides an opportunity to experiment without the pressures that a growing channel brings.

So what if I resist that conditioned habit of doing stuff, and just spend the day's "attention allotment" writing whatever I want to instead? Sounds pretty slowcore.

It helps that I'm clear about my role. First and foremost, I'm a writer. My role is to find out what wants to be said through me, and write it. Only incidentally have I stepped into an emergent contributor role for the Farcaster-seeded slowcore movement.

Even my role as a self-employed freelancer and solo business owner originally emerged years ago as a vehicle to facilitate my intrinsically motivated service work: writing, monastery-bootstrapping, and other creative projects.

But slow culture is making inroads into the Farcaster community of its own accord, which fascinates me. What might happen if I give the channel just enough attention to build in some basic structure, yet also refrain from driving it forward according to the default script? What might that look like?

Slowcore Rooms... Onchain?

Given that slowness is generally not valued in social media and the overall "attentional commons" seems depleted, I wonder: might we use the channel to help carve out some much-needed space for attention restoration?

How might we use this opportunity to help reclaim and protect human time and attention, including our own, from ever-encroaching extractive forces?

The default approach to building a channel and a sustainable business model would involve pursuing growth and further attention in the form of more followers, subscribers, page views, etc. But slow culture values deeper attention. Quality attention. Refinement. Contemplation. Taking things in at leisure. Pondering. Reflection.

A slowcore approach would, ideally, allow ideas all the time they need to incubate. Later, these ideas may seed new growth and inspire action, but that process cannot be rushed without compromising its indwelling intelligence.

One IRL element I rely on every day is restful, quiet places designed for humans to sit, relax, meditate, and allow the mind to wander uninterrupted. I call them slowcore rooms or incubation spaces. My Zorb chill room serves these purposes, for example. The world needs more slowcore rooms. (N.B. We plan to publish a guide for building slowcore rooms after getting our new channel established for Black Stone Sanctuary).

Slowcore rooms have a restorative effect on my attention and writing flow, so that's where most of my writing takes place. When good ideas show up on their own, without a nudge from me, I want as few obstacles as possible between me and getting those ideas written down.

What, I wonder, might be possible if we take a similar approach in our digital spaces?

What if we built slowcore rooms... onchain?

Attention is Both Given and Paid

"Attention is both given and paid. [...] Both verbs are necessary. "Give" reminds us of the freedom of our choice to attend, or not; "pay" reminds us of attention's costliness, and of the value of that to which we attend."
~ Alan Jacobs

What might a slowcore room look like if it were designed as a Farcaster channel?

As I think through this design space I note that deep attention, a sense of time spaciousness, and creative flow states are among the most valuable things in the world to me — so important that, to the best of my ability, I arrange my life around them. Without them, I cannot produce work of the sort you're reading right now.

But extractive economic systems of chokepoint capitalism treat the time, labor, care, and attention of artists and writers like me ("content creators") as an afterthought at best.

As I've written elsewhere (cf. Lewis Hyde), writers and artists are wealth generators. We make the world more beautiful, relatable, and valuable by using our skills and gifts to bring attention and care to what we create.

Yet even in web3, a space that ostensibly values "creators," significant up-front expenditures of time, attention, and unpaid maintenance labor still default to those whose resources are appropriated by extractive "creator economy" patterns. What if the path toward thriving Farcaster channels begins with measures to address these attentional value leaks?

Could we use Farcaster channels to proactively and retroactively counter these short-sighted extractive patterns?

What if we created channels in ways that could reliably reduce attention labor, and generously reward that labor — especially when it's done for collective benefit?

Onchain collectibles, for example, might be considered from the perspective of slowcore value. There's an upper bound to the number of NFTs a collector can mint before a collection becomes unwieldy, requiring more time and attention than the collector can give. When a collection exceeds this optimal range, the value goes down for a slowcore collector because there's not enough free attention to tend to it properly.

Could we invest our attention by giving it only in positive-sum contexts that return more value to those who create that value?

Could we create a channel that feeds and rewards deep attention collectively and individually, rather than depleting it and leaving us to compete with the information firehose for every morsel of attention?

Maybe we can shape our channels according to principles of slowcore value.

It fascinates me that attention is both given and paid. It sounds obvious enough on the face of it, but I keep thinking: what if this idea holds a key to unlocking slowcore value?

I have no conclusions to offer; only further inquiries. Thus, I bring you some Slowcore Nerd Notes today.

Photo: Mika Baumeister via Unsplash.

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