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.

Postcard experiment redux

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Attentive readers will remember that last fall, I began a little experiment by sending some vintage postcards (above) to a couple dozen friends and family members. I was interested in seeing what kind of response they got, in this day and age that's relatively postcard-less.

The response was a loud and clear "meh." A few people replied to acknowledge and thank me for the missive. Notably, most people did so via online media, e.g. a Facebook message asking me to be someone's penpal and a text message to the tune of "Love the postcard!"

As for everyone else, maybe they didn't get the cards? Did I put the wrong postage? Did they accidentally slip inside a catalog or some piece of junk mail that got thrown away? Or maybe people just don't care about postcards enough to remark on them.

Or, more likely, they were confused by the kitschy ones I sent, featuring jackalopes and "bratwurst beauties" and trout gobbling chum and advertisements for products such as sliced bread, antacids and water heaters that must have seemed more impressive in the 1960s.

One highlight of 2009 for me was receiving perhaps the only postcard of the year from my dissertation advisor, a terrific journalism historian. About a week after talking to him on the phone about my Slow Media project, I received a postcard featuring a photo of our old university library and the message:

My mother, who is 94 and never has had a computer, always types letters on a manual typewriter. So, I type to her in return, often sending postcards. That's about the only use I get out of my old Underwood these days. It always works, though. Typewriters never "crash," although the movers dropped my mother's' when she moved recently. I had to give her one from my collection.

Someone with a collection of typewriters sending me an unsolicited postcard? My hero.

Digital divides: Going offline in South Korea and online in Nigeria

Recent BBC reports reveal some strange goings-on in South Korea, the "most wired nation on Earth," where social networking was practically invented. In a recent BBC survey conducted across 26 countries, four in five adults said Internet access should
be "a fundamental right of all people," with South Korea showing the highest level of support (96%).

First, BBC News reported that a South Korean couple obsessed with caring for a virtual daughter online let their real baby starve to death. The parents became addicted to the Internet as an escape from reality after losing their jobs, according to police, and only fed their three-month-old baby once per day because they spent 12-hour stretches at an Internet cafe.

Then, as part of its "On/Off" project, BBC recruited two South Korean families to spend a week without the Internet. Some said that living offline was inconvenient and felt "suffocating" but others enjoyed "rediscovering lost time" to play with their kids and drink tea with neighbors. While one person never wanted "to go through this again," another recommended that "everyone should spend a week without the Internet."

Another segment of this project followed a rural community in Nigeria, where people usually travel 30 miles to get online, after some villagers got mobile Internet phones. It's striking what a difference these devices can make in a context — unlike developed nations — where there's no running water or electricity yet alone basic access to e-mail communication and online information about, say, health or politics.

Continue reading “Digital divides: Going offline in South Korea and online in Nigeria”

The discovery of the digital tardiness (and my new nom-de-plume, Jennifer Smoke)

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The German public radio network, ZDF, ran this great snail photo with its recent story about Slow Media, which follows below (as translated by Babel Fish).


On-line Filmer Kirby Ferguson wanted to deslag – mentally. Thus he did
not meals or alcohol, but without speed in the Internet. Slow Media is
called the movement from the USA, which sloshes now also to Germany.

The rules are clear: In the Internet surf is forbidden – exactly the
same as blog, News feeds, television YouTube, DVDs and Twitter. The
computer use and the multitasking are reduced. Maximally 30 minutes
private emails per day are permitted. Okay is " everything that ist" on
paper; , as well as radio, Podcasts, cinema. And a Hintertürchen gives
it: A daily Blog and Facebook update are permitted.

Ferguson brakes

It is an experiment, which Kirby Ferguson at the beginning of the yearly places itself. On-line
Filmer made of New York is " Digitally Native". He says of itself: "
Most of all I make everything gleichzeitig."

Facebook, Twitter, a blog,
YouTube, RSS feed – Ferguson goes through everywhere. And as like that
is in a Blog Facebook Nabelschauwelt: He observes himself thereby. And
it states that its concentration frays that its thoughts constantly fly
away to him.

Continue reading “The discovery of the digital tardiness (and my new nom-de-plume, Jennifer Smoke)”

ISO: Electric Dreams from the Beeb

Does anyone know where to get copies of BBC television programs that aren't being marketed on DVD? I'm eager to acquire "Electric Dreams," this British reality TV show about a family that moves forward through time, living in different decades and using historically appropriate technologies from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Sort of like PBS's "Frontier House" but dynamic and, well, electric.

The producers are pretty obsessive about vintage gadgets but there's also an interesting focus on how media technologies affect family life. They wonder: Has technological progress always been for the better? Spoiler alert! Depends on who you ask. The parents seem to enjoy the experiment more than the kids…

You can watch segments of it on YouTube (as above) but I'd like a complete, intact version of it that I can hold in my hands because — as the attentive reader of this blog might have noticed — I am the kind of person who likes to hold media products in my hands. The person who finds a copy for me gets a free subscription to my blog!