You don’t have to go live in the woods (unless you want to)

What can you do to further the cause of Slow Media, as a citizen, student, colleague, and consumer?

  • Just make time for enjoying print and analog media, as well as unmediated experiences.
  • Experiment with vintage techniques that will stretch and exercise your brain, like Slow Reading, Slow Listening, keeping a paper journal, or navigating by map.
  • Be mindful about the email you send, check messages less frequently, and turn off alerts to the extent possible.
  • Develop habits like breathing, monotasking, and taking breaks whenever you use fast media.
  • Set some parameters for building Slow intervals into your schedule, even for a few hours.
  • Practice empathy for people whose media habits, schedules, lifestyles, and tempos might differ from your own.

That’s the easy part. Then there’s becoming a green media consumer and citizen, which means recognizing that media use and production involves limits and that planetary resources are finite.

  • Resist buying media that you don’t need and reuse what you can.
  • Consume media products and services from companies that follow sustainable practices.
  • Support people who produce magazines, journalism, films, websites, and other media products in ethical ways.
  • Dispose of digital devices responsibly.
  • Learn some basics of environmental science and become comfortable with a new vocabulary of consumption.
  • Get familiar with processes that take place invisibly behind your screens.
  • Do some research, using resources like Greenpeace’s Click Clean Reports and GoodElectronics’ website.

Let’s use tech to promote pre-digital values: connection, creativity and respect

Douglas Rushkoff has long been one of my public-intellectual heroes – a short list that also includes Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and Bob McChesney. You might know one of his 20 books about media culture (Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc., Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus) or his Frontline documentaries (Generation Like, The Persuaders). MIT called him one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers.

I was totally elated when Rushkoff invited me to talk on the Team Human podcast recently. His mission jibes perfectly with Slow Media! Blaed Spence, a warrior-shaman and co-founder of Wired magazine, gave her own spin on life beyond screens, too. The podcast starts with a saucy monologue by Rushkoff, a sassy conversation with Spence (at 12‘30), and then my talk at (39‘0).

There’s an odd moment where I told the audience they don’t need to buy stuff or use social media to justify their existence, that they’re okay the way they are. For some reason, everyone chuckled. My sentiment was sincere, no joke!

Ep. 123 Live from Portland with Blaed Spence and Jennifer Rauch “Beyond the Screen”

“Looking for a dimmer switch on technology”

One of goal of Slow Media is to help subvert false or binary choices about digital media use. However, the larger problem is whether individuals still have any choice. Generation X might have been the last for whom decisions about how, when, or if to use digital media remained a matter of personal preference. Our choices regarding technology have narrowed decisively: do we opt to use digital devices all of the time, or most of the time?

At the individual level, many Post- Luddites are just looking for a dimmer switch on technology; they don’t want to leave the light on full-blast. (Much the same is true of Slow Media advocates; they just don’t want to go full-speed all the time.) At the collective level, Post-Luddites ponder why that light shines on certain things instead of others and whether the light should be powered by new sources—not only renewable energy, but also democratic decision-making.

Another media culture is possible

Slow Media, like Slow Food, encourages people to reassess consumer culture, to conserve natural resources, to resist commodification, to fight standardization, and to preserve traditional tastes.

Slow Media is useful for thinking about long-term sustainability because it foregrounds problems such as mass manufacturing, disposability, planned obsolescence, and superficial measures of efficiency.

Print, analog and other nondigital forms of Slow Media provide a glimpse of another culture that was, is, and will be possible—a culture guided by the quality of human lives.

Idler endorses SM:WSISSAS as “book of the week”

The Idler has long been a slow inspiration for me. Also, Stewart Lee! Am I a counter-cultural relic, too?

The charming magazine-academy-festival Idler (UK) has named Slow Media: Why “Slow” is Satisfying, Sustainable and Smart its “book of the week.” Editors noted that they liked the book’s “more mindful approach to our relationship with media, something the Idler can certainly get behind.” An excerpt of Slow Media ran alongside stories about Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “fits of idleness” and Aldous Huxley’s mystical leanings.