Arianna Huffington Espouses Slow News Movement

First Slow Media, Slow Communication, Slow Reading… now Slow News and Slow Blogging?

"A world of too much data, too many choices, too many possibilities and too little time is forcing us to decide what we really value," Arianna Huffington writes in a recent post. "And, more and more, people and innovative companies are recognizing that we actually have a life beyond our gadgets."

It's telling–and no, not ironic–that a blogging behemoth like the Huffington Post recognizes the "longing to disconnect" from our "hyperconnected lives." Arianna suggests that an iPhone feature called Do Not Disturb designed to get you off your iPhone (?!) might offer some relief. (I'm a fan of just hitting the off button, myself…)

To give all props where due, let's also note that Politics Daily correspondent Walter Shapiro wrote an article a couple of years ago calling for a "Slow News Movement" as a "form of reader rebellion." Shapiro argues that meaning and context suffer in our faster-faster media culture, where people don't really have time to contemplate the information thrown at them.

"The news of government, politics and the world is too important to be instantly consumed like a shopaholic racing through a mall," he says. "Our democracy simply cannot survive if we fail to see the forest for the tweets."

Shapiro, who also clued me in to a hitherto-unfamiliar Slow Blogging proposal from Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post, concludes by asking readers if they really understand the world better by getting their news constantly in brief staccato bursts than they did 10 or 15 years ago, when news (even on cable TV) was packaged by editors.

So, do you?

Signs of slowness in Australia


With Australia in the news now, it reminded me of a lingering question: Why do people down under seem especially interested in Slow Media and Unplugging, compared to other countries? Not sure I can answer this, but please share any theories you might have!

There’s mounting evidence that Aussies are really into being Slow (guffaw). I’ve been tracking this matter closely and found five compelling indicators:

  • Richard Watson, a business strategist who writes for Fast Company and foresaw the credit crunch, predicted to The Australian newspaper that Unplugging would become a “watchword” as people started feeling too connected. The Sydney-based Brit envisioned digital diets and renewed interest in analog media such as fountain pens, wet-film photography and vinyl records.
  • Transformations Journal, edited by some great blokes at Southern Cross University and University of Queensland, recently devoted a whole issue to articles about Slow Media. If you’re interested in how this subculture originated, you can read my contribution here. There's a great piece on Facebook suicide, too.
  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an hour-long radio program in 2010 about the Slow Movement, with a big segment on Slow Media. On the show called Future Tense, reporters asked me how my college students react to their Unplugging assignments and interviewed Carl Honore (In Praise of Slowness) about Slow Food and Citta Slow.
  • Another article in The Australian dropped the term “Slow Media” into a 2010 story about media impatience with parliamentary independents who deliberate slowly. I don’t really see the connection between the two, but it’s interesting that they casually cite the idea and assume people will know what it means.
  • Susan Maushart, who just published a book fantastically entitled The Winter of Our Disconnect that chronicles how she and her three “totally wired” teenagers gave up technology for six months, lived in Western Australia for many years. She’s an NYU grad who lives in Long Island now, but she went back to Perth to write her book.

Someone once told me that going to Oz is like traveling back in time 50 years (she meant it in a good way–that Aussies are more trusting than Americans, and stuff like that). Maybe they're just behind the curve, or maybe they're ahead of the next one…

“Workers of the World, Unplug!”

What does the Slow Media Movement have in common with Slow Food? Roger Buddenberg of the Omaha World-Herald explains this, and more, in his story about the digital backlash.

The article describes how people are giving up the Internet for Lent; students are taking stress-management classes to learn how to not be distracted; and coaches are taking cellphones away from players to improve performance.

Buddenberg also quotes a clinical psychologist who says that digital media is
"fundamentally ruining the quality people's lives" and jokes that he wants "to be the mayor" of the Slow Media Movement. (No Foursquare required for that!).