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”

The Slow Media Project Got Harder

P1030950

A view of my iGoogle home page on my new all-in-one iMac (left) versus the same page on my old Dell laptop (right).

 

Maybe I don't like digital media. Then again, maybe I just didn't like MY digital media.

Readers of this blog have already laid eyes upon the device I carry that passes for a cellphone, which will no longer enable the "walk-and-talk" or receive unsolicited texts once I start the Slow Media Project next month and replace it with a landline.

What you might not know is that last year, when I hatched this plan of going offline, I was using the crummy laptop pictured above as my primary computer. It's a miracle I got anything done on that thing, yet alone five years of work, including the vast majority of my dissertation.

Behold, however, my shiny new computer: a 24-inch iMac with beautiful resolution, a wireless mouse and 1TB of memory. I will miss it dearly — including, but not limited to, the Netflix that it beams into my home (soon to be replaced with basic cable).

People are usually surprised to hear that I do in fact love many aspects of digital media. But really, wouldn't the project be uninteresting if I hated the Internet? Then there would be no challenge, no sacrifice. It would be like me giving up sardines or pickles for Lent.

“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.

Continue reading ““Slow Foxtrot Media: One medium at a time””

Vive la liberté!

The Slow Media Project has moved forward by leaps and bounds
this month, despite (or perhaps due to) there being scant evidence of such in
my blog. Here’s the update:

April 4: The
countdown begins.
The magic date for going offline, off-cellphone and
off-Facebook will be Independence Day, of course. Three months
to go, which gives ample time to arrange and publicize alternate methods of
contact that don’t involve e-mail, chat, or text message. For example: I now
have a P.O. Box, and a landline is in the works. I’ve been working for over a
month to unsubscribe from hundreds of e-mail lists — they’ve really
accumulated during the course of my 20 years “on e-mail” — so my in-boxes won’t look too daunting when I go back online next year.

April 11-17: National Library Week. The way I see it, the Slow Media movement is about appreciating
“heritage” and “heirloom” forms of media and communication, not necessarily rejecting digital ones. So I visited my local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
in Bed-Stuy… Upon inquiring for a new library card, I was directed to apply
online at a nearby computer station. Most people there were, in fact, using the
public computers or playing CDs and DVDs rather than perusing the stacks or
handling dead trees. N.B.: The BPL seems eager to extract money for using
their free books; the borrowing card they gave me is labeled “debit card.”

April 19-25: Digital
Detox Week.
Our neighbors to the North have taken a shine to this notion of
Slow Media, as I was interviewed recently for stories by La Presse in Montreal
(story here, en francais) and others. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for example,
assigned a “guinea pig” to spend a day offline and report back. And, the whole Digital Detox Week campaign, formerly TV Turnoff Week, comes
courtesy of Adbusters.org, which is based in Vancouver.

Next up: Purging all my social-media profiles, which means finding out whether I'm still registered with Friendster or MySpace. I haven't used them since, oh, 2006 or 2007.

A new ritual: Unplugging for a day of rest

I've been meaning to make a suggestion for a while now: Let's use the Sabbath as an occasion to take a break from digital communication. The only problem is, I'm kind of agnostic.

Maybe it doesn't matter. Here's my proposal: Regardless of your religious persuasion, treat Sunday (or the day of your choice) as a special day where you don't get sucked into the vortex of online communicaton, infotainment, social media and e-shopping.

Instead, do all that stuff you enjoy: walking in the park, going for a drive, playing games, cooking a nice meal for your family and friends, riding your bike, calling your parents or grandparents, hiking in the woods, reading books, having a picnic, visiting the museum… Your stuff is probably different from mine, but never mind. Just do, you know, restful stuff.

I remember when, just 20 years ago, a lot of stores were closed on Sundays. When I lived in England (not the most devout country), it was kind of big news around 1990 or so that some department stores started staying open on the Sabbath. OMG, you can go shopping on a Sunday now! But, do you really need to?

What with it being Holy Week, this seems like a good time to push the idea. Lots of spiritual traditions emphasize spending time in contemplation, fellowship, communion with God and/or nature, so it can be nondenominational (or multi-denominational). Just put aside technology for one day, only 14.28 percent of your week.

I'm happy to report that many people are sharing my wavelength. CNN recently did a story about Reboot, a group of secular Jews urging people to observe 24 hours of freedom from their devices on a "National Day of Unplugging," for the Jewish Sabbath. And no, they're not Luddites! The New York Times describes them as "hip, media-savvy Jewish professionals" from gadget-loving New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their principles, available at SabbathManifesto.org, are:

  • Avoid technology.
  • Connect with loved ones.
  • Nurture your health.
  • Get
    outside.
  • Avoid commerce.
  • Light candles.
  • Drink wine.
  • Eat bread.
  • Find silence.
  • Give
    back.

I might not be Jewish, but those sound like 10 fine commandments to me.