Happy Unplugging Day!

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A little humor in honor of the National Day of Unplugging (March 23-24 this year). Reboot, who promotes this annual event, even participated in panel discussions and threw an unplugged party at SXSW Interactive, where the Sabbath Manifesto pledge to avoid technology has been gaining support. (The pledge to drink wine seems pretty popular, too.)

Is it ironic that uber-connected people are getting unplugged? Of course not. You can love digital devices and still relish taking a break from them. Life feels a little flat when you stare at screens all day and again at night, during the week and then on weekends, too.

Hope you're enjoying life in all its dimensions with some screen-free time today…

 

Protest visionary: E-mail feels like “denial-of-service attack against my brain”

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Adbusters editor and protest motivator Micah White prefers people to send letters to his snail-mail address. His website reads: "Micah does not use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, et cetera. He reluctantly accepts e-mail at micah@adbusters.org."

 

Micah White, the 29-year-old Adbusters editor who helped spur the Occupy Wall Street movement, is not on Facebook, which he calls "the commercialization of friendship."

In a New Yorker article last month about the origins of OWS, White said that he used e-mail and Twitter only because he felt compelled to. He said that he believed in "the Heideggerian critique of technology, that it turns us into empty matter for the exportation of capitalism."

"All these e-mails — it feels like a denial-of-service attack against my brain," the Canadian told reporter Mattathias Schwartz.

Wortham redux: “Zine resurgence among the web-savvy”

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Photo courtesy of Tea Tree Gully Library. It's a city in South Australia, the undisputed land of Slow Media lovers.

 

Despite having access to blogs and knowing how to use them, people — even young ones — still like to make publications by hand. This according to a recent NY Times article re-titled "Raised on the Web, but Liking a Litte Ink" by Jenna Wortham (mentioned in the previous blog post), who also reports creating her own zines with friends.

Since the dawn of blogging almost a decade ago, there's been a print renaissance, experts said. “We’re seeing a flowering of print,” a librarian specializing in periodicals told Wortham. “People are drawn to the experiences of creating and collecting these physical objects."

A 23-year-old pseudonymous blogger — whom Wortham describes as "prominent" — said that he recently began publishing a zine because “It’s satisfying to produce something that people can hold and treasure and value partially for its physicality instead of something that gradually disappears (…) In 2011, it feels like a rare pleasure to hold up a bunch of pieces of paper that are bound together and read them, instead of reading off a screen.”

Amen to that.

(If anonymity has piqued your curiosity, click here for a story in Fast Company about Mr. Mystery's zine launch.)

A third of Americans still resisting Facebook

Jenna Wortham might be a kindred spirit. As a tech reporter at the NY Times, she's written about young people who are indifferent to or critical of digital media… Voila, her latest: Shunning Facebook and Living to Tell About It. She also cites a Pew finding that 16 percent of the U.S. population doesn't have cellphones. 

A companion piece at the Times' Learning Network asked student readers whether they would ever quit Facebook. Many responded that they had never joined Facebook, rarely logged on to the site, considered deleting their accounts all the time, only used social media for work, etc. Some said that Facebook was "getting creepier every day" or just "a drama site."  (Below: Infographic courtesy of The New York Times)

 

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Signs of slowness in Australia

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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…