“The weirdest three hours I ever spent,” student says

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that students in my Mass Media & Culture class were ambivalent toward my critique of digital communication and my nostalgia for analog alternatives. After all, they're members of the "Millennial Generation" (which doesn't even consider e-mailing or texting to be "writing," according to this Pew survey) and I'm just a digital immigrant.

So color me surprised when many of them got sentimental in their reports on the Slow Media Experiment! In this assignment, students spent three hours engaged with analog media or other non-digital entertainments of their choice — such as watching VHS tapes, keeping written journals, playing musical instruments, listening to vinyl records and audio-cassettes, painting, sketching, making ceramics, etc.

As  it happens, many of these college students missed middle-school-era activities that had been pushed aside as their lives got busier (in part due to increasing digital communication). Here's a small sampling of their responses to the experiment:

  • I chose to write in my journal because it is something that
    I used to do every night when I was growing up and haven’t done since middle
    school. I’ve always felt too busy or tired to sit down and write out my
    thoughts after a full day at school or whatever it was that filled up my day.
    Eventually I forgot about doing it all together. This assignment gave me a
    reason to do it again after four years. When I was a kid, writing in my journal
    was a special, almost sacred part of my day. It was a chance to be alone with
    my thoughts. It felt so easy and relaxing. Writing in a diary is something
    truly unique, and there is no digital alternative that can fully capture the
    experience. There is something to be said for sitting down in a comfortable,
    quiet place and writing out slowly and deliberately your every thought and

  • First I practiced calligraphy, an art class that I am taking
    in school. It's non-Western calligraphy, so we
    have been practicing Arabic calligraphic work, which is very interesting. I
    used a pen and ink to practice Arabic letters such as the S, L, J and B. The
    advantage of doing these activities was that it caused me to be really engrossed
    in what I was doing and I wasn’t really concerned with my cellphone or who
    might be trying to reach me at the moment. Doing art was very therapeutic. I don’t
    believe that you can recreate art with digital media tools.

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