More Student Reactions to Slow Media

A few months ago, the students in my Media & Culture class spent some time engaging with Slow Media and then reflecting on their experiences. Why? Because I made them!

This assignment was motivated by the fact that they had found it difficult to stick with the Digital Detox for one whole day. Detox focuses on what you can't do, creating a void in which students got bored and time passed slowly. Instead of presenting the experiment as a negative — "you can't go online or use your cellphone" — I reconceived it as a positive: You have an opportunity now to devote a few hours to entertaining yourself with the analog "devices" of your choice.

An earlier post described the surprising reactions of students who played musical instruments, wrote in journals, watched videotapes and practiced calligraphy for their Slow Media Experiment. The surprising part, for me, was how nostalgic these 19-to-23-year-olds felt for activities that they enjoyed and made time for just a few years ago — activities that have been pushed aside, in part, by the increasing demands of cellphones and computers.

Here are more extracts from their essays, where one student calls her experiment "the weirdest three hours I have ever had" and another says she feels freer when untethered from a computer:

  • The first part of my experiment was doing pottery for my
    Introduction to the Potters’ Wheel class. I was either on the wheel making, or
    trying to make, new pieces, trimming the feet for pieces that were already
    finished, or glazing them. The first couple of weeks had me worrying about how
    I would do in this class; I never seemed to make anything good and it got me
    really frustrated. I turned out to be one of my favorite classes I’ve taken
    during my entire time in college. I think that it being not the typical class
    with desks or computers makes it better and gives you more freedom.
  • I chose to listen to vinyl records because my parents collect
    them and own a record player, but I’ve never actually listened to any of
    them.
    I felt this desire to dust them off and play the Beatles the
    old-fashioned way.
    When I listened to [them] for the first time, I couldn’t help but smile.
    It
    really is the simple things in life that make us the happiest (…) It was
    a
    great chance for my sister and I to hang out and just be teenagers all
    over
    again. We felt like a couple of rock’n’roll kids from the sixties. I
    felt as
    though I really bonded with my sister through it.

Continue reading “More Student Reactions to Slow Media”

More signs of a Slow Media Movement… on Facebook

People keep pointing out to me the apparent "irony" of fueling a digital-media resistance movement via the Internet. Many critics of the present environment, like myself, try to be clear that we're not Luddites struggling to destroy the machines. We're just trying to slow them down a bit, perhaps keep them in their circumscribed place instead of letting them creep all over our culture.

In any case, Facebook just might have something to teach us about this nascent concept of slow media. As of press time, the "Slow Media Movement" on Facebook has nine members, including yours truly. Here's a glimpse at their mission statement, which takes aim at multi-tasking and what might be called "distractedness":

"We believe, first and foremost, that listening to music or watching
films should be deliberate acts; that the current trend of collecting
music and movies in gigantic batches of unrelated and overly compressed
digital files is not only changing our methods for interacting with
such materials, but is fundamentally changing the materials themselves;
that a far better way to enjoy music is in an intentional or deliberate
manner where the listener or viewer is relaxed and prepared, rather
than solely while on public transit or while engaging in other
activities. Does this mean we hate our iPods and iPhones and
other media devices? No! It simply means that sometimes media is best
enjoyed without dividing your attention between it and other activities."

The "Slowbies–Slow Philosophy" group is doing slightly better, with a membership of 77, though it focuses less explicitly on media. The guy who started this group was inspired by Carl Honore's book "In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed." He also sings to the glory of idleness, though he's specific about not being anti-productivity:

"In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming
age. we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the
background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being
alone with our thoughts. Boredom—-the word itself hardly existed 150
years ago—-is a modern invention. Remove all stimulation, and we
fidget, panic and look for something, anything, to do to make use of
the time. When did you last see someone just gazing out the window on a
train? Everyone is too busy reading the paper, playing video games,
listening to iPods, working on the laptop, yammering into mobile
phones."

He says that the group is part of a growing global movement against the addiction to speed that's "16 million strong in
the UK already." (He also links to a site for the International Institute of Not Doing Much, which claims more than 2000 members and sells t-shirts.) I'll have to look for the basis of that figure… Also, I wonder what the OED has to say about the origins of "boredom."

Then there's my own group, "Facebook, Stop Colonizing My Lifeworld!" My supporters only number in the single digits, too… so far. Maybe the semi-obscure, quasi-elitist Habermas reference is scaring away the masses. Or maybe all these strands of the Slow Media Movement need to be woven together, to present a more unified front, to mix a metaphor.

If you know of any more groups–Facebook or otherwise–plugging Slow Media, please post a comment and let me know!