Let’s use tech to promote pre-digital values: connection, creativity and respect

Douglas Rushkoff has long been one of my public-intellectual heroes – a short list that also includes Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and Bob McChesney. You might know one of his 20 books about media culture (Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc., Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus) or his Frontline documentaries (Generation Like, The Persuaders). MIT called him one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers.

I was totally elated when Rushkoff invited me to talk on the Team Human podcast recently. His mission jibes perfectly with Slow Media! Blaed Spence, a warrior-shaman and co-founder of Wired magazine, gave her own spin on life beyond screens, too. The podcast starts with a saucy monologue by Rushkoff, a sassy conversation with Spence (at 12‘30), and then my talk at (39‘0).

There’s an odd moment where I told the audience they don’t need to buy stuff or use social media to justify their existence, that they’re okay the way they are. For some reason, everyone chuckled. My sentiment was sincere, no joke!

Ep. 123 Live from Portland with Blaed Spence and Jennifer Rauch “Beyond the Screen”

“Looking for a dimmer switch on technology”

One of goal of Slow Media is to help subvert false or binary choices about digital media use. However, the larger problem is whether individuals still have any choice. Generation X might have been the last for whom decisions about how, when, or if to use digital media remained a matter of personal preference. Our choices regarding technology have narrowed decisively: do we opt to use digital devices all of the time, or most of the time?

At the individual level, many Post- Luddites are just looking for a dimmer switch on technology; they don’t want to leave the light on full-blast. (Much the same is true of Slow Media advocates; they just don’t want to go full-speed all the time.) At the collective level, Post-Luddites ponder why that light shines on certain things instead of others and whether the light should be powered by new sources—not only renewable energy, but also democratic decision-making.

Another media culture is possible

Slow Media, like Slow Food, encourages people to reassess consumer culture, to conserve natural resources, to resist commodification, to fight standardization, and to preserve traditional tastes.

Slow Media is useful for thinking about long-term sustainability because it foregrounds problems such as mass manufacturing, disposability, planned obsolescence, and superficial measures of efficiency.

Print, analog and other nondigital forms of Slow Media provide a glimpse of another culture that was, is, and will be possible—a culture guided by the quality of human lives.

Idler endorses SM:WSISSAS as “book of the week”

The Idler has long been a slow inspiration for me. Also, Stewart Lee! Am I a counter-cultural relic, too?

The charming magazine-academy-festival Idler (UK) has named Slow Media: Why “Slow” is Satisfying, Sustainable and Smart its “book of the week.” Editors noted that they liked the book’s “more mindful approach to our relationship with media, something the Idler can certainly get behind.” An excerpt of Slow Media ran alongside stories about Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “fits of idleness” and Aldous Huxley’s mystical leanings.





Let’s break the clocks and refuse the quickening of our lives

Few could have predicted two decades ago that Slow Food visions of the good life would inspire such innovative thinking about how our media choices affect fellow human beings and the planet that we share.

It’s remarkable that food theory captured the public imagination at a time when many other critical approaches fell short, as Ben Agger observed. Like me, he visualized a new stage of civilization where media could be used to slow down our lives, redefine human progress, and pursue greater harmony with nature. In advocating for what he called “slowmodernity,” he refused to make the false choice between a Luddite retreat (slow) and a digitized utopia (fast).

Instead, we should be free to move at variable paces, “going back and moving forward, mastering time so that it serves us, not the other way around,” he said. “We must break the clocks, resisting and refusing the quickening of our lives. We must not allow ourselves to be overscheduled, hurried, hassled; we must take our sweet time, dawdling in order to slow down the flow.”