An interesting post from Alice, excerpted here:
I’d argue that attention is an important part of the status metric; but I don’t think more attention always translates to more status (the term “famewhore” comes to mind). But perhaps the attention is what encourages people like Julia Allison or Nick Starr to continue living public lives, even as they receive a great deal of negative attention at the same time. I would be interested to see if attention of any kind correlates with participation, or whether it is only positive attention; if the YouTubers had thousands of hits, but an equal number of vitriolic comments, would they continue to post videos?
Finally: We hear a lot about the “attention economy” or “publicity culture,” in which the most valued skills are those which increase attention. And many people decry this culture for bubbling-up sensational, sexual, or violent content– or just short bursts of info-nuggets– rather than meaningful, thoughtful, difficult ideas.
I definitely think that attention of any kind (positive or negative) would be found to correlate with participation. Attention will motivate you to participate because it is a venue for communication, and regardless of whether you feel encouraged to continue what you’re doing, or encouraged to defend what you did, it seems like either way you’ll be strongly compelled to continue to participate. Maybe Sarah Palin is the exception here, but I doubt it.
So, yes, attention is a form of status, but it’s not necessarily going to be a rewarding or intrinsically valuable kind of status. In fact, perhaps this is the simplest argument against trying to game the system of attention / status / fame / popularity. It is a self-feeding ecosystem of increasingly-growing participation that can grow and grow and yet not necessarily have any direct link to value.
To de-link attention and status, perhaps it’s better to use the concept of reputation instead of status. They are similar–they are both given to you by other people / society in general, however a good reputation implies a certain amount of respect. High levels of status merely imply feeling like you’re higher on some social ladder than another without saying why. Any celebrity will benefit from their own celebrity status and attention (special access, more opportunities, special treatment, etc), however, not every celebrity will be said to have a good reputation, and therefore not every celebrity will be able to say they are living a rewarding life, one that builds meaningful and loyal relationships with people while also maintaining their own sense of self and ability to respect themselves.
On the other hand, non-celebrities can also achieve this form of status even without the incredible amount of attention that would give them access to the perks of high status.
The discrepancy between status and reputation can cause people to exhibit feelings of hate, unfairness, and disgust commonly seen in our own treatment of people who abuse the power of their societal status. Unfortunately, reputation doesn’t have the same direct relationship to attention that status does, and therefore many things of high reputation lack the exposure of their high status cousins. It’s unfair, possibly, but a natural result of sticking to what matters (being a respectable person) instead of doing whatever it takes to game the system and get as much attention as possible.