Subsight, Inquiries in the Subversion of the attention Economy.

In 2020, in the midst of the online expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement, a multitude of channels and media started to relay information about ways to donate or help their community. As a result, millions of individuals started to relay posts and facts about the murder, and more globally about the lack of attention given to police brutality towards BIPOC.

While many sharing and reposting strategies were surfacing to raise funds and reparations for the victims involved, one particular format took form: watch-to-donate videos. At its core, these videos would display content or music made by Black creators and all the collected money from the advertisements played on those videos would be redirected to the selected cause. The video “Black Lives and Voices Matter: an art exposition (fundraiser closed!)”, posted in May 2020 collected over more than 11 million views, enabling a considerable amount of profit to be collected and re-distributed.

In the description section of her video, content creator Zoe Amira wrote: “I’d also like to thank all of the media outlets and creators using their platforms to give this project some shine. Your dedication to using your voice to share and do good work speaks volumes and I am entirely grateful. Perhaps more importantly, to all of you people who shared this video on your Instagram, spoke about it with your friends and families, tweeted and watched, and were excited at a way to help that you couldn’t otherwise, I am BEYOND proud of you, and thank you for being part of the power behind social change.”

The act of directing individual will and attention in order to drive social change and enable economic re-distribution has since then been experimented with, leaving more activists and creators to use the same strategy. Since its creation, similar impulses were used for various causes such as Climate Change, War in Ukraine, and Hunger in Yemen. Through an almost identical procedure, these attempts were all trying to re-direct individuals’ time and gaze, leading  us to formulate the following research question:

If we can’t avoid it, how can we subvert the current attention economy to alter it in favor of a greater pool of individuals or causes?

Subsight investigates the dynamics of the current attention economy and displays a variety of attempts toward a possible subversion. How do users consume online content? What is the trade operating while we spend time watching ads and videos? Who benefits from this economy and its monopolies? Are alternative models possible?

From Watch To Donate to generating Tabs for a Cause, our research unfolds concrete ways in which viewers can redirect their attention in order to participate in wealth and attention redistribution. This research intertwines conversations with activists, creators, and theoreticians to generate visibility on this emerging debate.

This website provides interviews, theoretical insights, a library of resources, and a mailing list. At its core, Subsight wants to shed more light on actors of this matter, strategies currently developed, and their limitations. Subsight creates a network of resources, thinkers, and existing strategies to shape the future of the attention economy better.

Theoretical Content 

  1. Introduction
  2. SubSight: Rendering the Research on the Subversion of Existing Models.
  3. A Detour in the Attention Economy.
  4. The Digital Attention Economy: An Unfair Trade?
  5. Displaying a Potential Subversion
  6. Towards a Redefinition of Authenticity in the Attention Economy 
  7. Seduction and the Gaze: the Importance of Trends in the Attention Economy
  8. Overview of the Different Models
  9. Speculative Upscale of such Models and their Limitations 
  10. The Subversion Through Ad Revenue: Are these Loopholes Good Enough?
  11. Conclusion and Hypothesis for Future Models

Interviews with

Watch To Donate is an international student-run non-profit organization donating all revenue created through their social media accounts to charities. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the videos on this topic created by Zoe Amira, Alicia founded Watch To Donate in the summer of 2020. She asked herself, why there are no channels that are only dedicated to donating money. The platform is currently on TikTok, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube, with its apps on the Google Play and App Store, and songs on Spotify.

Low Tech Magazine is a platform working on the topic of sustainability through questioning technological progress. Their content is provided on a solar-powered website in order to put an emphasis on how technologies can contribute a sustainable society. With this measure and their design, they want to minimize their impact on the environment and use as little energy resources as possible.

Good-Loop is a purpose-powered ad tech platform that drives ad engagement by converting people’s attention into donations to good causes around the world. The company is on a mission to make the connection between brands and consumers more meaningful by delivering respectful ads that bring real social impact, while also driving significant business and brand uplifts for advertisers.

Tab for a Cause is a browser extension created about 10 years ago and currently consisting of a team of three full time employees and an additional part time engineer. The platform is using the blank white screen that appears when opening a new tab in a browser (which is nowadays often filled with the Google search engine for many users) in order to raise money for charity.

Michael H. Goldhaber published the article The attention economy and the Net | First Monday in 1997 and is now completing a book on the Attention Economy, the Internet, and the human future. Formerly a theoretical physicist, a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D. C., and editor of Post-Industrial Issues, he is currently mostly retired.

WeAre8 describes itself as a social platform with zero tolerance for hate. They want their “citizens” to post with pride and be their authentic selves. They use both AI technology and human moderation to ensure they keep their community safe. At its core, this social media platform delivers a transformational experience with the added benefit of being valued and paid to watch brand ads. Those users can choose to forward this to charity or get paid themselves. Simultaneously, the brands advertising on the app also donate a percentage of their ad spend to charity.


You can find more about the entirety of the research on our website.



Barnabás Bácsi (b. 1997) is an intermedia artist based between Vienna and Budapest. He has an Intermedia Art MA from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. He often creates installations with embedded digital elements, conceptually building from references of digital/meme culture.

Luca Hierzenberger is working as a strategic consultant for a Viennese agency. With a degree in Management by Design (New Design University St. Pölten), she is now a student of Cross-Disciplinary Strategies at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. As an all-arounder interested in various topics, her practice primarily deals with interdisciplinary processes and approaches. This includes method development, workshop creation, and lots of experimentation. With a soft spot for data privacy and data centers, the Attention Economy and especially the process of its subversion has become one of her research interests.

Alicia Li is a high school student from the US. She founded Watch To Donate in 2020 and developed the apps Play To Donate and Memorize To Donate. Outside of leading the Watch To Donate team, she researches Adversarial Reinforcement Learning and dances at a company. Alicia is passionate about environmental issues, gender equality, and educational equality. She hopes to study AI to solve climate change.

Morgane billuart (1997) is a filmmaker and writer based in Vienna. She graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and studied at the cooper union in new york. In the era of digital practices and diy-internet belief, her practice aims to display diverse technological phenomena and dissect their inner structures. Often, she confronts these themes and interests with her gender and existence as a woman in the spaces she investigates and questions how feminist perspectives can help us rethink and criticize the technocratic and digital spheres surrounding us. To explore such topics, she uses diverse mediums, often returning to film-making and writing.