Given that I’m currently completing a project called A Slow Year, and given that it is, somewhat poetically, taking longer than I anticipated to finish, and given that I’m resolved to do it right rather than to do it fast, given all those things I was intrigued to learn of the Slow Media Manifesto from my friend Julian Bleecker. As the manifesto says, “Like Slow Food, Slow Media are not about fast consumption but about choosing the ingredients mindfully and preparing them in a concentrated manner.”
It’s worth a read, although at fourteen claims, it is a bit long for a manifesto. Like Julian, I found myself selecting among these tenets according to my preference. I’m particularly fond of the following:
2. Slow media promote Monotasking. Slow Media cannot be consumed casually, but provoke the full concentration of their users. As with the production of a good meal, which demands the full attention of all senses by the cook and his guests, Slow Media can only be consumed with pleasure in focused alertness.
3. Slow Media aim at perfection. Slow Media do not necessarily represent new developments on the market. More important is the continuous improvement of reliable user interfaces that are robust, accessible and perfectly tailored to the media usage habits of the people.
10. Slow Media are timeless: Slow Media are long-lived and appear fresh even after years or decades. They do not lose their quality over time but at best get some patina that can even enhance their value.
11. Slow Media are auratic: Slow Media emanate a special aura. They generate a feeling that the particular medium belongs to just that moment of the user’s life. Despite the fact that they are produced industrially or are partially based on industrial means of production, they are suggestive of being unique and point beyond themselves.
Of the other claims, some feel unimportant to me (“Slow Media respect their users”), while others I want to reject outright (“Slow Media advance Prosumers”). From the perspective of a manifesto, particularly with this title, I rather wish the authors had pared down to the minimum set of precepts and expanded from there into varieties of slow media.
Expansion in mind, there’s also a Slow Media Blog, which offers examples and analysis. It’s riddled with Greek and Latin, which I’ll admit appreciate, but risks being a bit snobbish and offputting. I wonder if it respects its users.
Some of the speciments discussed on the blog confuse me (Wired Magazine, for example), while others really seem to hit the nail on the head (“Life simply is too short to surround oneself with bad things”).
I spent a good part of yesterday participating in debates on this blog and others (about the role of academics in the world) and on the game trade website Gamasutra (about my column there on plumbing the depths of platforms, itself an essay on the virtues of the slowness of technological progress). On the one hand these are productive conversations that help me sort through ideas. But on the other hand, the virtue that makes them so, speed, also strips away opportunities to ponder fruitfully. These days I often find myself reloading web pages, checking stats, refreshing lists, and so forth. I don’t like doing those things, and I feel them begging to become compulsions. In light of all this, the invitation to think about the concept of “slow media” is a welcome one, even if its one that doesn’t yet feel fully formed by its proponents. I suppose that’s strangely apt.