A newspaper in Montreal recently ran this article contemplating Slow Media, or -- as Babelfish has mysteriously rendered it -- "Slow Foxtrot Media." (Maybe Babelfish is also psychic? I do like Wilco...). It's interesting, too, that "solitude" became "loneliness." Though I speak French real good, the Babelfish translation below is more fun than mine would be. I've cleaned up the English text in just a few places to improve clarity or accuracy.
By Nathalie Collard, La Presse
Some read the news on their cellphone while driving, others cannot be prevented from checking their emails at the restaurant or are straightforwardly unable to exist without spending hours per week in front of their computer to sail on social Twitter, Facebook and other media. In a world where the multitask became the standard, and where our capacity to concentrate is reduced like peau de chagrin, a citizen movement is asserting a more moderate and balanced consumption media. After the Slow Foxtrot Food, the Slow Foxtrot Media.
For one year, in her course of journalism at Long Island University, Jennifer Rauch has tried an experiment with her students. Initially, she proposes to them one complete day without media. “For some, it is quasi insupportable, tells Rauch, united by telephone. Several said to me that they had been unable to do it until the end. Not to go online, not to use their cellphone was beyond their power. They were afraid to miss something. Of course, they were wrong.”
Rauch is a pionnière of the movement Slow Media which gains slowly but surely followers a little everywhere in the world. The Slow Foxtrot Media is neither antitechnology nor antimodernity, it is a movement which wishes to draw attention to the frantic rate of our consumption of the media and its perverse effects, and which asserts a certain hygiene of life as to their use.
That could result in some basic rules like: when an emission of TV is looked at, one should text not at the same time; when one reads, one should extinguish the computer; when one eats with somebody, one should not answer the telephone… A return to the rules of courtesy and living together which existed before the arrival of the chains of continuous information, alarms on cellphones and ceaseless emails.
Aged between 18 and 23 years, the students of Jennifer Rauch are not close to signing their card of membership in the movement Slow Media. On the contrary, they correspond completely to the recent data on the use of the Internet, that it is the report/ratio of Pew Research Center in the United States or NETendances to Quebec.
In both cases, it is noted there that young people are letting go of radio and television as well as newspapers for the Internet. They are mobinautes, constantly connected on their intelligent telephone and their portable wifi.
“Their life is invaded by the Internet, notes Rauch. I try to teach them how to develop a long thought. I want to show them that time is something precious.”
We are able to note it every day, and as scientific studies show it, this frantic multitask has harmful effects on our capacity to concentrate us.
Is this the heartfelt cry of an exceeded baby-boomer? The study NETendances 2009 indeed clarified the existing gap générationnel between the young users of new media and their parents, faithful to the traditional mediums. The demarcation is not also clear.
Young people themselves also question the use that they make of the Internet and social media in general. It is the case of Thomas Leblanc, editor-in-chief of Nightlife Magazine which, in a recent ticket, acknowledged being tired of the frenzy and waste of time engendered by social media.
“It is above all in my work that it affects me a lot, explains Mr. Leblanc, who is 24. It never stops, even more because the very nature of the magazine that I direct, devoted to the exits and the cultural life montréalaise, makes so that my personal life and my professional life are intertwined with one another”.
Thomas Leblanc likes the analogy with the movement Slow Food a lot, and even goes so far as beginning again on his account, à la sauce médiatique, the principles enacted by the guru of this movement in the United States, Michael Pollan: “I try to consume media that's original, local and nutritious”, he observes.
He is not alone. Since yesterday, and until April 25, the Adbusters organization invites Net surfers to take part in the event DIgital Detox Week, an occasion to take some distance and think about our consumption of the media. Others did not wait for this one week of special behavior; they keep away straightforwardly from this wheel which turns unceasingly. It is the case of Malcolm Gladwell, author of the essay The Tipping Point, which recently entrusted to the Globe and Mail to have forsaken the blogosphère.
“There is a limit to what one can accomplish in a day, he confided to the anglophone daily newspaper. I do not have the impression that I'm lacking platforms to express myself. I have my books, I write for The New Yorker, if I do much more, people will tire of me. I have a Blackberry, but sometimes I leave it in my bag and I will work quietly in a cafe. I seek all kinds of small ways of finding moments of solitude.”
Slow Foxtrot TV
The same bell rang for organizer and producer Stéphan Bureau who estimates to make Slow Foxtrot TV with its Contact series. Like Gladwell, he says he holds himself far from the ambient noise. “All that does not interest me, he explains, because that means that one spends one's time being interrupted in our thoughts, our conversations in the meals, our work, our life… One does not go any more on the mountain, one looks at our emails and our texts. I find that weak.”
“I have been online for 20 years, observes Jennifer Rauch for her part. At the beginning there was a concept of pleasure to surf, because it was connected to leisure time. Now that so many tasks of daily life require a computer, I reached a point of no return. I do not want to pass the remainder of my days in front of the computer.”
One can say that Slow Foxtrot Media falls under a broader movement launched to some extent by the journalist and essay writer Carl Honore, with his book In Praise of Slowness.
In interview, Honore has already confided: “It is difficult to transform our practices because we bathe in a culture which repeats to us that doing several things at the same time is modern, effective and satisfactory. But change is possible. Once we understand the limits of the human brain, it is easier to forsake multi-tasking. But that takes time because we are hooked on adrenaline. It is necessary to go there slowly, to start by devoting an hour per day to a mental activity without any gadgets to distract us. (...) One realizes that one achieves things much more quickly and with much more precision.”
> To consume one medium at a time, with concentration.
> To consume media which have high standards of quality.
> After having read an article or having listened to a radio program, to want to take notes, discuss or exchange. The consumer of media is not passive any more, it shows initiative.
> To encourage contacts and exchanges.
> The Slow Foxtrot Media are not in opposition to social media like Twitter and Facebook. They rather preach an intelligent use of these social media.
> The site Slow Foxtrot Media of the professor Jennifer Rauch: http://slowmedia.typepad.com/
> The page of the followers of the Slow Foxtrot Movement Media on Facebook
> The site of Carl Honore: http://www.carlhonore.com/
> Digital Detox Week: www.adbusters.org/campaigns/digitaldetox
After Mondays without meat, Sundays without ordi?
Professor of journalism at the University Length Island, Jennifer Rauch proposes a second experiment with its students: to use only media which did not exist before 1989 and this, during 24 hours. To listen to a vinyl disc, to view a videocassette, to read a book, to write a letter. This experiment provoked for her a reflection more pushed on the omnipresence of the media in our lives and the fact sometimes that they prevent us from living concrete experiments, to establish human contacts. Since, every Sunday, Dr. Rauch extinguishes all. “I am not practicing [a religion] but there is something spiritual in taking a retreat once per week, as many religious practitioners do. I want to reconnect with my community, to contemplate the nature which surrounds me, to see friends... in short, full with things which do not involve a computer.”