“Slow Foxtrot Media: One medium at a time”

A newspaper in Montreal recently ran this article contemplating Slow Media, or — as Babelfish has mysteriously rendered it — "Slow Foxtrot Media." (Maybe Babelfish is also psychic? I do like Wilco…). It's interesting, too, that "solitude" became "loneliness." Though I speak French real good, the Babelfish translation below is more fun than mine would be. I've cleaned up the English text in just a few places to improve clarity or accuracy.

By Nathalie Collard, La Presse

Some read the news on their
cellphone while driving, others cannot be prevented from checking their
emails at the restaurant or are straightforwardly unable to exist
without spending hours per week in front of their computer to sail
on social Twitter, Facebook and other media. In a world where the
multitask became the standard, and where our capacity to concentrate is reduced like peau de chagrin, a citizen movement is asserting a more moderate
and balanced consumption media. After the Slow Foxtrot Food, the Slow Foxtrot Media.

For one year, in her
course of journalism at Long Island University, Jennifer Rauch has
tried an experiment with her students. Initially, she proposes to them one
complete day without media. “For some, it is quasi insupportable,
tells Rauch, united by telephone. Several said to me that they had been
unable to do it until the end. Not to go online, not to use their
cellphone was beyond their power. They were afraid to miss something. Of
course, they were wrong.”

Rauch is a pionnière of the movement Slow Media which gains slowly
but surely followers a little everywhere in the world. The Slow Foxtrot
Media is neither antitechnology nor antimodernity, it is a movement
which wishes to draw attention to the frantic rate of our
consumption of the media and its perverse effects, and which asserts a
certain hygiene of life as to their use.

That could result in some basic rules like: when an emission of TV
is looked at, one should text not at the same time; when one reads, one
should extinguish the computer; when one eats with somebody, one should not
answer the telephone… A return to the rules of courtesy and living
together which existed before the arrival of the chains of continuous
information, alarms on cellphones and ceaseless emails.

Aged between 18 and 23 years, the students of Jennifer Rauch are not
close to signing their card of membership in the movement Slow Media. On the
contrary, they correspond completely to the recent data on the use of
the Internet, that it is the report/ratio of Pew Research Center in the
United States or NETendances to Quebec.

In both cases, it is noted there that young people are letting go of
radio and television as well as  newspapers for the Internet. They
are mobinautes, constantly connected on their intelligent telephone and
their portable wifi.

“Their life is invaded by the Internet, notes Rauch. I try to teach them
how to develop a long thought. I want to show them that time is
something precious.”

We are able to note it every day, and as scientific studies show
it, this frantic multitask has harmful effects on our capacity to
concentrate us.

Is this the heartfelt cry of an exceeded baby-boomer? The study
NETendances 2009 indeed clarified the existing gap générationnel
between the young users of new media and their parents, faithful to the
traditional mediums. The demarcation is not also clear.

Young people themselves also question the use that they make of
the Internet and social media in general. It is the case of Thomas
Leblanc, editor-in-chief of Nightlife Magazine which, in a
recent ticket, acknowledged being tired of the frenzy and waste of time engendered by social media.

“It is above all in my work that it affects me a lot, explains Mr.
Leblanc, who is 24. It never stops, even more because the very
nature of the magazine that I direct, devoted to the exits and the
cultural life montréalaise, makes so that my personal life and my
professional life are intertwined with one another”.

Thomas Leblanc likes the analogy with the movement Slow Food a lot, and
even goes so far as beginning again on his account, à la sauce médiatique, the
principles enacted by the guru of this movement in the United States,
Michael Pollan: “I try to consume media that's original, local and nutritious”, he observes.

He is not alone. Since yesterday, and until April 25, the Adbusters
organization invites Net surfers to take part in the event DIgital
Detox Week, an occasion to take some distance and think about our
consumption of the media. Others did not wait for this one week of special behavior; they keep away straightforwardly from this wheel which turns
unceasingly. It is the case of Malcolm Gladwell, author of the essay The
Tipping Point
, which recently entrusted to the Globe and Mail
to have forsaken the blogosphère.

“There is a limit to what one can accomplish in a day, he confided to the anglophone daily newspaper. I do not have the impression that I'm lacking platforms to express myself. I have my books, I write for The New
, if I do much more, people will tire of me. I have a
Blackberry, but sometimes I leave it in my bag and I will work quietly
in a cafe. I seek all kinds of small ways of finding moments of solitude.”

Slow Foxtrot TV

The same bell rang for organizer and producer Stéphan Bureau who
estimates to make Slow Foxtrot TV with its Contact series. Like
Gladwell, he says he holds himself far from the ambient noise. “All that does
not interest me, he explains, because that means that one spends one's
time being interrupted in our thoughts, our conversations in the meals, our
work, our life… One does not go any more on the mountain, one looks at
our emails and our texts. I find that weak.”

“I have been online for 20 years, observes Jennifer Rauch for her
part. At the beginning there was a concept of pleasure to surf, because
it was connected to leisure time. Now that so many tasks of
daily life require a computer, I reached a point of no return. I do not
want to pass the remainder of my days in front of the computer.”

One can say that Slow Foxtrot Media falls under a broader
movement launched to some extent by the journalist and essay writer Carl
Honore, with his book In Praise of Slowness.

In interview, Honore has already confided: “It is difficult to
transform our practices because we bathe in a culture which repeats to us
that doing several things at the same time is modern, effective and
satisfactory. But change is possible. Once we understand the limits of the human
brain, it is easier to forsake multi-tasking.
But that takes time because we are hooked on adrenaline. It is
necessary to go there slowly, to start by devoting an hour per
day to a mental activity without any gadgets to distract us. (…) One
realizes that one achieves things much more quickly and with much
more precision.”

Some principles

> To consume one medium at a time, with concentration.

> To consume media which have high standards of quality.

> After having read an article or having listened to a radio
program, to want to take notes, discuss or exchange. The consumer of
media is not passive any more, it shows initiative.

> To encourage contacts and exchanges.

> The Slow Foxtrot Media are not in opposition to social
media like Twitter and Facebook. They rather preach an intelligent use
of these social media.


> The site Slow Foxtrot Media of the professor Jennifer Rauch:

> The page of the followers of the Slow Foxtrot Movement Media
on Facebook

> The site of Carl Honore: http://www.carlhonore.com/

> Digital Detox Week: www.adbusters.org/campaigns/digitaldetox

After Mondays without meat, Sundays without ordi?

Professor of journalism at the University Length Island, Jennifer
Rauch proposes a second experiment with its students: to use only
media which did not exist before 1989 and this, during 24 hours. To
listen to a vinyl disc, to view a videocassette, to read a book, to
write a letter. This experiment provoked for her a reflection more pushed on
the omnipresence of the media in our lives and the fact sometimes that
they prevent us from living concrete experiments, to establish human
contacts. Since, every Sunday, Dr. Rauch extinguishes all. “I am not
practicing [a religion] but there is something spiritual in taking a retreat once per week, as many religious practitioners do. I want to reconnect with my
community, to contemplate the nature which surrounds me, to see friends…
in short, full with things which do not involve a computer.”


  1. Very droll! I enjoyed this translation quite unique, and also it has pleased me to wonder about the original version in French as I’m too lazy to seek the source. I only view one webpage at a time; my version of slowing down digital media. Just back from two days off-line and always enjoy reading your blog. Maybe you’ll publish it as an old-school one-page mimeographed newsletter handed out on street corners, when you go off-line for good?

  2. Wow! That’s a great idea, Sophia: One webpage at a time. Never occurred to me, now that I’ve been brainwashed to open multiple browser windows — nay, multiple browsers! I’ll have to try this strategy. P.S. You might enjoy this book called Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, by Winifred Gallagher. Not too deep or dense to preclude beach/pool reading 🙂

  3. Yes, it’s a good idea. How is too much information, people can not concentrate, and have problems with work and relationships with other people. For something like this, we become lonely. Many of us can not imagine a day without your favorite website, or facebook twiter. It is an addiction. I do a “digital detox” for 2 days a week – no internet, no television, no radio. Only books, beer, friends and barbecue.

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