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?

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)”

I heart digital media. Really!

Somehow, people have gotten the idea that I hate digital media. I'm not exactly sure how this happened. Maybe it's because I write a blog about digital disenchantment. Maybe it's because I teach a class questioning the inflated role of communication technologies in our culture. Maybe it's because they heard my interview with Sally Herships on NPR about how I'm fostering a movement that encourages people to re-value offline media and get disconnected more.

For the record: I think the Internet is pretty neat. I remember the moment a few years ago when I looked at Google Earth for the first time, and felt dizzy. I just had fun launching a new website-slash-business-card. I did a video chat via Skype with my boyfriend the other night, and it was way cool. I'm even into online shopping, and e-banking, and streaming videos from Netflix and Hulu and YouTube, and all that jive.

Plus, I'm sort of addicted to this blog of mine. I have good discipline
and a busy life, so I spend most of my time doing things offline. But
if I were getting paid (conditional contrary to fact) to write about
Slow Media, I would totally love doing this every day.

Especially since one of my dearest friends just sold everything she owned and moved to Paris, I realize that we're lucky to have digital technology now for staying in contact. I lived in the south of France for a while in the 1980s and was really lonely, being completely out of touch with all my friends and family for long stretches. I also lived in Beijing for a while in the 1990s, and although there was an Internet, it was really slow (especially in China at that time) and phone calls back to the States cost $3… per minute. Living abroad must be easier now with e-mail, Skype, blogs, online photo sharing, iPhones, etc.

So don't think I'm hating on new communication technologies. They're super! I just think it's healthy to disconnect once in a while, to keep a good online-offline balance, and to be conscientious about the burdens that accompany these blessings and the analog losses entailed by digital gains.

My Slow Media diet: How will it work? For how long?

I've been referring to my pending experiment as a digital media fast, or something like that. I'm thinking, though, that terms like "abstinence," "avoidance" and "fast" focus too much on what's lost instead of calling attention to what's gained. Namely, the time to pursue a host of other things. It's been a long time since I read a novel… or practiced Chinese calligraphy… or baked a pear pie… or used my watercolor set… or went hiking on the Appalachian trail.

So why not a "Slow Media diet"? This phrase captures the idea of a regimen that excludes many convenient things, but includes many better things that involve some effort and imagination. It could be like giving up Cosi and making your own sandwiches or having one at a friend's house, instead — to stretch the food metaphor perhaps a bit too far.

I imagine that for purposes of the experiment, I'll pretend that
it's 1989 (one of my formative years, naturally) and permit myself to
use whatever media were available in that communication environment of
two decades ago. This includes landlines, faxes, printed newspapers and
magazines, books, radio, VHS tapes, records and cassettes, television
(provided its still broadcast), etc. — along with anything unmediated. Still a lot of details to work out here regarding how to define and delimit digital media, a tricky task since they've encroached on every facet of our lives.

As for the timeframe: I initially thought I would do this for just a
month, maybe over the summer break when it would be easier to "clear my
plate" of work obligations that require computer use. Lately, I've been
talking to some people who urge me to be more ambitious and give up
digital media for a year (easy for them to say! Maybe they enjoy the prospect of living vicariously through me).

But
really, the year-long "lifestyle experiment" has become pretty standard
in our culture. A year in Provence. A year of living dangerously, and
also of living biblically (that guy A.J. Jacobs has single-handedly built a cottage
industry of doing odd things and keeping diaries). There's the woman that didn't buy
anything
for a year, the family that didn't use toilet paper for a year, and the woman who cooked Julia Child every day for
a year (leading to a book, movie, and long Netflix queue for The French Chef). I wonder just how closely they hewed to their own rules.

Could I avoid using any cellphones, computers or other digital
media for a whole year? Could you?

Continue reading “My Slow Media diet: How will it work? For how long?”

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!