A few months ago, the students in my Media & Culture class spent some time engaging with Slow Media and then reflecting on their experiences. Why? Because I made them!
This assignment was motivated by the fact that they had found it difficult to stick with the Digital Detox for one whole day. Detox focuses on what you can't do, creating a void in which students got bored and time passed slowly. Instead of presenting the experiment as a negative -- "you can't go online or use your cellphone" -- I reconceived it as a positive: You have an opportunity now to devote a few hours to entertaining yourself with the analog "devices" of your choice.
An earlier post described the surprising reactions of students who played musical instruments, wrote in journals, watched videotapes and practiced calligraphy for their Slow Media Experiment. The surprising part, for me, was how nostalgic these 19-to-23-year-olds felt for activities that they enjoyed and made time for just a few years ago -- activities that have been pushed aside, in part, by the increasing demands of cellphones and computers.
Here are more extracts from their essays, where one student calls her experiment "the weirdest three hours I have ever had" and another says she feels freer when untethered from a computer:
- The first part of my experiment was doing pottery for my Introduction to the Potters’ Wheel class. I was either on the wheel making, or trying to make, new pieces, trimming the feet for pieces that were already finished, or glazing them. The first couple of weeks had me worrying about how I would do in this class; I never seemed to make anything good and it got me really frustrated. I turned out to be one of my favorite classes I’ve taken during my entire time in college. I think that it being not the typical class with desks or computers makes it better and gives you more freedom.
- I chose to listen to vinyl records because my parents collect them and own a record player, but I’ve never actually listened to any of them. I felt this desire to dust them off and play the Beatles the old-fashioned way. When I listened to [them] for the first time, I couldn’t help but smile. It really is the simple things in life that make us the happiest (…) It was a great chance for my sister and I to hang out and just be teenagers all over again. We felt like a couple of rock’n’roll kids from the sixties. I felt as though I really bonded with my sister through it.
- I chose to write in my journal because I have been feeling a little overwhelmed lately. I usually write in my journal when I feel very stressed out. I got home that day and went to my room, laid on my bed, and just started writing about my goals, frustrations and needs. I think I wrote for about an hour and 20 minutes, so it turned out to be a lot of writing. After I finished, I was still stressed but it did help to relieve some tension.
- I decided to take advantage of Slow Media Week to (...) read the New York Times and make a collage of the things I was going to purchase during Black Friday. (...) For a half an hour, I read the paper front to back until I came across the advertisements and suddenly got the idea to cut out the things that made it worth going out on Black Friday. Unfortunately, given the time and effort I put into the collage I made, I didn’t get up on time.
- The day was very foggy and it had everyone’s spirits down, so I decided to start my project. First, I began to paint. Then I decided to watch a VHS movie. At first I wasn’t sure what to paint, but once I started I couldn’t stop. I had forgotten how much fun painting was. After I finished painting, I went into the guest room to watch Sailor Moon, my favorite movie when I was 13 years old. It brought me so many memories of being a child and playing with my friends. These were the weirdest three hours I have ever had.