Happy Unplugging Day!



A little humor in honor of the National Day of Unplugging (March 23-24 this year). Reboot, who promotes this annual event, even participated in panel discussions and threw an unplugged party at SXSW Interactive, where the Sabbath Manifesto pledge to avoid technology has been gaining support. (The pledge to drink wine seems pretty popular, too.)

Is it ironic that uber-connected people are getting unplugged? Of course not. You can love digital devices and still relish taking a break from them. Life feels a little flat when you stare at screens all day and again at night, during the week and then on weekends, too.

Hope you're enjoying life in all its dimensions with some screen-free time today…


Protest visionary: E-mail feels like “denial-of-service attack against my brain”


Adbusters editor and protest motivator Micah White prefers people to send letters to his snail-mail address. His website reads: "Micah does not use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, et cetera. He reluctantly accepts e-mail at micah@adbusters.org."


Micah White, the 29-year-old Adbusters editor who helped spur the Occupy Wall Street movement, is not on Facebook, which he calls "the commercialization of friendship."

In a New Yorker article last month about the origins of OWS, White said that he used e-mail and Twitter only because he felt compelled to. He said that he believed in "the Heideggerian critique of technology, that it turns us into empty matter for the exportation of capitalism."

"All these e-mails — it feels like a denial-of-service attack against my brain," the Canadian told reporter Mattathias Schwartz.

A third of Americans still resisting Facebook

Jenna Wortham might be a kindred spirit. As a tech reporter at the NY Times, she's written about young people who are indifferent to or critical of digital media… Voila, her latest: Shunning Facebook and Living to Tell About It. She also cites a Pew finding that 16 percent of the U.S. population doesn't have cellphones. 

A companion piece at the Times' Learning Network asked student readers whether they would ever quit Facebook. Many responded that they had never joined Facebook, rarely logged on to the site, considered deleting their accounts all the time, only used social media for work, etc. Some said that Facebook was "getting creepier every day" or just "a drama site."  (Below: Infographic courtesy of The New York Times)



Back online, somewhat ambivalently


People sent me a lot of postcards during the digital-detox experiment, but this one is probably my favorite since it combines postcard, newspaper and typewriting all in one.


After six months of immersing myself in Slow Media, I’m back online now — though still not using a cellphone. Interwebbing was fun for the first few days, but surprisingly the excitement faded fast.

Since starting the experiment in July, I have used payphones and yellow pages and typewriters… penned piles of letters and postcards… watched all my VHS tapes and listened to all my audiocassettes (along with some vinyl, until my record-player broke)… devoured a huge stack of newspapers and books… deciphered many a printed map…. and taken photographs with disposable cameras, 35mm film and Polaroids.

It was really fun. And honestly, life without digital media wasn’t that hard, folks. You should try it. Maybe just for a day, or a weekend?

Next up: I might perform a week of silent meditation to challenge the assumption that we need to speak, or maybe I’ll stop washing my hair for a few months to prove that we don’t need shampoo.

The digital juggernaut: Resistance isn’t futile!


Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation, after his assimilation by the Borg.

Whenever I see people walking down the street wearing those little Bluetooth headsets, I think of the Borg.

Okay, really… first I think that they must be crazy people, because when I grew up, if you saw someone walking down the street alone talking, it meant that they weren't getting the right meds.

But then once I do notice the headset, I think Borg.

To summarize the concept of Borg quickly, I'll excerpt a passage here from the page for Borg on Wikipedia, as I trust Trekkers to vehemently enforce the accuracy of that entry — and if they don't, well, there's not a whole lot at stake here. It's science-fiction, folks. (Or is it?)

The Borg are a fictional pseudo-race of cybernetic organisms depicted in the Star Trek universe. The Borg have become a symbol in popular culture for any juggernaut against which "resistance is futile." The Borg manifest as cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind,
linked to subspace domain. (…) They operate solely toward the
fulfilling of one purpose: to "add the biological and technological
distinctiveness of other species to their own" in pursuit of perfection. This is achieved through forced assimilation,
a process which transforms individuals and technology into Borg,
enhancing, and simultaneously controlling, individuals by implanting or
appending synthetic components.

In the Star Trek universe, assimilation by the Borg is generally
assumed to represent an enhancement of individual capabilities. But the price of
enhancement is control, the subjugation of all individual wills to a collective
mind, which runs counter to most of our cultural notions about what it
means to be human.

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