attention theft
n. The intrusion on a person’s attention by unwanted and unauthorized text, sounds, or images.
attention thief n.

Example Citations:
You cannot choose what you notice at the moment. But you can alter your habits. Much more is now known about the importance of adaptive learning. The more that those habits involve fascination with some aspects of the world instead of entertainment by tuning out, the less empty overconsumption or casual attention theft you may suffer. Sensibilities to surroundings don’t involve just roses, but also rooms, streets, and neighborhoods.
—Malcolm McCullough, “On attention to surroundings,” Interactions, December 15, 2012

The Internet is the worst polluter of all. Spam isn‘t even pollution, it’s attention theft. But even legitimate email is typically copied to more people than necessary and contaminated by excess verbiage and endless reply loops.
—Jakob Nielsen, “Information Pollution,” Neilsen Norman Group, August 11, 2013

Earliest Citation:
Dr. Mann fights technology with technology, wearing computers on his body and cameras in his glasses so he can “shoot back” by recording everything he sees. The billboards and advertisements posted on every public surface are a form of “attention theft,” he says, so he has invented technology that replaces these messages with whatever he would like to see. When he is wearing his “eyetap” glasses, which project an image onto the retina of his eye, a condom ad in a bathroom becomes a picture of a waterfall.
—Bruce Schechter, “Scientist at work: Steve Mann; Real-Life Cyborg Challenges Reality With Technology,” The New York Times, September 25, 2001

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