People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Georg Franck
Technical University of Vienna, A
Abstract: The economy of attention. On culture's core business.

The conventional distinction between culture and commerce is dissolving. Cultural business feels increasingly compelled to fend for itself financially; core areas of cultural values (net products?) such as the production of knowledge and publication media have become forerunners of this economic transformation. Cultural competence has acquired that position in the information society, which was occupied and continues to be occupied by technical competence in the industrial society.

However, this new mixed situation places new demands on competence in regard of handling this - especially higher - culture; demands that are barely understood, much less accepted. Dealing with this higher culture is threatened by an explicitly poor alternative, namely by it being treated as a commodity on the one hand and as a reflex-like defence on the part of economic thought, on the other. Culture that is produced as a commodity is inferior in a specific sense. In any case, it fails to reach those heights which arise when culture develops from a desire to obtain recognition and attention. If the emergence of high culture as it exists today in Europe had to be motivated by the payment of money alone, it would not be affordable even for the richest of societies. However, that definitely does not mean that this culture emerges for its own sake. Its production is also profit-oriented; however, it is not for the sake of - at least not primarily for the sake of - financial profit.

As an economics of attention, the business of culture is, on the one hand, as old as and, on the other hand, as highly developed as the money economy. Since ancient times, cultural organisers function as entrepreneurs and financiers in the field of public attention. In the meantime, the economy of attention has a highly developed, mass media-based loan and stock exchange department. In the meantime, even the highest developed investment goods industry, namely the production of knowledge, belongs to the economy of attention. The classical culture business continues to function as a high-performance, middle-class sector in this non-material economy. Thos who have not understood its laws will not be able to advise cultural business and cultural politics at least in those areas where high quality is important.

Remarkably, however, not only business economists who consider themselves capable of counselling cultural business and cultural politics but also basic economic theory tend to overlook this non-material economy. The results of business counselling and of counselling the investor regime in cultural business are therefore disastrous. They entirely agree with those who basically refuse to think in terms of economic categories. This false alternative is one of the main reasons for the critical condition of high culture at a time when the willingness to invest attention - and last but not least money - in cultural production and reception has reached a historically unprecedented peak.

Biography: Georg Franck (*1946 in Swabian Hall) has been professor for computer-assisted methods in architecture and spatial planning at the Vienna University of Technology since 1994. He studied philosophy, architecture and economics in Munich. From 1974 to 1991, he worked as free-lance architect, urban planner and software developer for municipal planning. Between 1991 and 1993, he ran his own business, developing and selling spatial information systems. His work focuses on: the new information and communication technologies both as an instrument and object of spatial planning, the balance between economy and ecology, the economy of attention and philosophy of time.

Selected publications:
"ökonomie der Aufmerksamkeit", München: Hanser (1998)
"Künstliche Raumzeit. Zur Ökonomischen Interdependenz von Raum und Zeit", in: Merkur Nr. 582/583 (Septemer/Oktober 1997)
"Time, temporality, novelty, and history. Some facets of a phenomeon still awaiting comprehension" in: Jean Paul Cheylant/ Andrew Frank/ Jonathan Raiper (eds.), Life and Motion of Socio-Economic Units, London: Taylor & Francis (im Druck)
"Jenseits des temporalen Nihilismus", in Merkur Nr. 587 (Mai 1997)

Institution: Institut für edv gestützte Methoden in Architektur und Raumplanung