“We must break the clocks, resisting and refusing the quickening of our lives”

Few could have predicted two decades ago that Slow Food visions of the good life would inspire such innovative thinking about how our media choices affect fellow human beings and the planet that we share.

It’s remarkable that food theory captured the public imagination at a time when many other critical approaches fell short, as Ben Agger observed. Like me, he visualized a new stage of civilization where media could be used to slow down our lives, redefine human progress, and pursue greater harmony with nature. In advocating for what he called “slowmodernity,” he refused to make the false choice between a Luddite retreat (slow) and a digitized utopia (fast).

Instead, we should be free to move at variable paces, “going back and moving forward, mastering time so that it serves us, not the other way around,” he said. “We must break the clocks, resisting and refusing the quickening of our lives. We must not allow ourselves to be overscheduled, hurried, hassled; we must take our sweet time, dawdling in order to slow down the flow.”

Slow Media and Team Human Join Forces

Humanity now has an official team, and it has recruited Slow Media. I’m excited to be joining Team Human to talk with media theorist, documentarian and Renaissance man Douglas Rushkoff about how to amplify human connection in a digital age.

At a Team Human Live event in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 22, I’ll share ideas about  Slow Media: Why Slow is Satisfying, Sustainable and Smart with Rushkoff and co-panelist Blaed Spence. Spence is an alum of the Apple Multimedia Lab and founding partner of Wired magazine who is working to dismantle the patriarchy and predatory capitalism from within the belly of the beast.

Rushkoff, who was named one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers by MIT, wants our society to stop using technology to optimize people for the market and start using it to build a future centered on our pre-digital values of connection, creativity and respect.

He’s a great example of a Post-Luddite: someone who understands media technology but knows it’s not living up to its promise. And he’s doing something about it. In this Ted talk, Rushkoff talks about why he started Team Human.

 

To attend Team Human Live in Portland, use this link register in advance. If you can’t make it, the event will be broadcast later on XRAY-FM and distributed as a podcast. I’ll post and circulate links when they’re available.

You can also listen to 100+ shows featuring conversations with public intellectuals and activists like Eli Pariser, Micah White, George Monbiot, Howard Rheingold, Richard Maxwell, Fred Turner, and danah boyd in the Team Human archives.

 

A Slow News Podcast from Denmark

A group of young journalism students in Aarhus, Denmark, have launched the new podcast “Slow News.” They aim to give listeners an alternative to mainstream media, and more importantly, to give themselves time as reporters to seek out untold stories, investigate events in depth, and present new angles on current events.

In this first episode (above), I talk with Juliette Freysson about the concept of Slow News. She’s from Lyon, France, while the other students are from all over Europe: Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany, Bulgaria. In later episodes, they take a Slow approach to reporting on issues like how people deal with crises at home when they’re living abroad.

Now Streaming for Kids: Slow TV

Mister Chris conjures Mister Rogers, though we’re on a first-name basis here.

Vermont PBS has launched a new children’s show that aims to promote emotional awareness and development in its viewers through respect, inclusion and participation.

Mister Chris and Friends” follows the eponymous host around Vermont’s idyllic countryside, on one level teaching kids how, for example, apples are pollinated, but using each moment along the way as a chance to engage kids through song, empathy, and simply listening.

This is Slow TV.

While most contemporary children’s television is loud neon speed theater, “Mister Chris” is quiet, naturalistic, focused, slow, speaking to “the most sensitive ears in the room.”

Their participatory knack extends to their funding and production: a pilot was created by Kickstarter, and their commitment to inclusion extends to sensitivity to their audience’s diversities.

Response to the show has so far been very positive, with calls to take it national. Appropriately, they would rather grow slowly.

The Nine-Year Quest to Publish “Slow Media”

“Congrats, I can imagine that getting a book out to the world is quite a process!” That’s the kind of thing people have been saying a lot since Slow Media: Why Slow is Satisfying, Sustainable & Smart was finally released by Oxford University Press in September.

Folks, you have no idea.

The journey started in 2009, when I started pondering the possibilities of a less mediated life and searching for a Slow Media movement, as recounted in my Slow Media blog and on NPR’s Marketplace. Soon I was in the midst of the six-month Slow Media experiment, where I pretended it was 1989. (You can hear about my life without digital media in this audio story at Medium.com.)

Fast forward a couple of years, and I had an offer from an independent “print-on-demand” publisher to release an earlier version of this book. I declined because I didn’t feel confident signing a contract without representation. So I got an agent and spent a year working with her to develop a proposal. Yikes! She couldn’t sell it.

By 2013, I’m doubting the whole project and persuading myself that the world doesn’t need another book. It’s not like you get rich or famous in academic publishing, right? Not to mention the irony of having spent years of my life typing at a computer to spread the message that we should all spend less time staring at screens. On the backburner it goes.

Meanwhile, I write a couple of things about Slow Media for scholarly audiences: tracing the origins of the idea for an article in the journal Transformations and analyzing why slowness is a form of cultural resistance for a chapter in The Routledge Companion Alternative and Community Media.

The fact that people from all over the world keep reaching out to discuss Slow Media convinces me it’s worth another shot. To wit, I did some interviews with Radio National in Australia, La Presse of Montreal, Les Clés de la Presse in France, and Daily Beast in the U.S., among others. I’m ultimately glad to have let the project steep for a few years; my ideas evolved and the book is deeper and richer for having waited.

I’ve shared this timeline to demystify the process, especially for those of you who happen to be nurturing an unpublished book. I sent the proposal for Slow Media to a few academic publishers on my own in 2016 and had some offers, including from Oxford. Working with them was an amazing experience, although not without delays. It took around 32 months from contract to release.

Moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race.