Given the contemporary fascination with and, indeed, addiction to real-time media dispatch and commentary, what does it mean to speak of “slow media”? Is this to invoke the memory of “old” media, of legacy media, the media and technologies that are now thoroughly mediated and remediated into newer, faster, digital forms (Bolter & Grusin)? Or is it to speak of the possibility of experiencing our media more slowly, of taking time out or time off from the email, releasing some of the pressure that has built up in our systems? And dare we even think such a thing when everything around us screams of increased processing speed, increased bandwidth, and increased convergence? We are 24-7, we are always-on, we are connected; we are locatable, we are geotagged, we are Cartesian-coordinated; we are status updated, we are tweet-fed; we are real-time media junkies and everything about our mediascape exists to remind us that we don’t have time to slow down.

Indeed, “slow media” may seem entirely inimical to the age of social media and 24-hour news channels, where we live immersed in a mediascape dedicated to that magical moment “when the interval between the triggering of an event and its processing/reception falls beneath the threshold of sensible perception” (Mackenzie 168). In such a scenario, “slow media” appears either heretical or retrogressive, a wanton disregarding of the patent necessity of instant information dissemination and rampant friending, or just another Luddite reaction-formation.

And yet the term, and concept, has a resonance that is not so easily elided by the familiar narratives of progress and development, and it has taken root in a number of quarters. The slowness of the “slow” movement, typified by the notion of “slow food,” has taken hold to the degree that there are now numerous manifestos online and in print proclaiming the virtues of a “slow media” diet (see Rauch, this issue) or a “slow communication” ethic (Freeman). New Media artists such as Vicky Isley and Paul Smith of boredomresearch, have interrogated the Internet’s bias towards speed and efficiency, with their “Real Snail Mail” project which makes the Internet work against itself by using actual snails equipped with RFID chips to deliver email messages (boredomresearch).

Slow media operates, then, as a concept around which numerous different interrogations and critiques of media, speed and technology can crystallize. In this issue of Transformations, we present a collection of papers that explore the notion of slow media across a number of domains and technologies. Each paper in this issue charts media use and production practices that take a resistive stand against the apparent speed of contemporary media, the upgrade cycle of new technologies and the throwaway attitude to consumer electronics. In the opening paper of the issue, “The Origin of Slow Media,” Jennifer Rauch, a journalism professor and blogger, explores the origins of slow media as an online discourse, describing her own “digital disenchantment” and the research that led her to undertake a 6-month period of offline existence, the Slow Media Project. Rauch charts the gradual growth of a movement dedicated to

using media in a more attentive and deliberative mode, doing more by doing less, strengthening local communities, stressing quality over quantity, promoting artisanal products, reducing time spent producing and consuming digital communiqués, and re-appraising heirloom forms of media such as books, newspapers, postcards and film. (Rauch)

Tero Karppi, in “Digital Suicide and the Biopolitics of Leaving Facebook” charts one possible apotheosis of such an approach to media, exploring two art projects – “Seppukoo.com” and the “Web 2.0 Suicidemachine” – which automate the process of deleting users’ social media accounts; while concretely these projects exist to provide a “service” of a sort, they do so within the context of a critique of the omnipotence and omnipresence of social media technologies, and their impacts on social and individual subjectivity. In this paper, Karppi argues that these projects work not so much against social media technologies but beyond them, accelerating their function and opening up new uses, models and networks based not on the endless cycle of “friending” and “liking” but on, in Guattari’s phrase, “mutant singularities and new minorities.”

Shifting tack from social media to video games, in “Slow Play Strategies: Digital Games Walkthroughs and the Perpetual Upgrade Economy,” Daniel Ashton and James Newman explore the creation of digital game walkthroughs as an example of disruptive or resistive practices dedicated to a “slow” game-play ethic. Beyond the simple creation of walkthroughs as processual description, therefore, Ashton and Newman explore the phenomenon of “glitch hunting,” a practice where game-players refuse the teleology of seeking to “win” the game and instead seek those points where the universe of the game breaks down, where bugs unfold, where undocumented or impossible game spaces emerge. Glitch hunting, then, and walkthroughs more generally, stand as a kind of play that refuses the upgrade economy and the race to the next game, instead celebrating extended and slow play, a play that recalls Rauch’s definition of the slow media ethic, playing digital games “in a more attentive and deliberative mode, doing more by doing less.”

Slow media strategies can emerge not only through a slow approach to new or “fast” media, but through the examination of “slow” technologies. In “Slow and fast music media: comparing values of cassettes and playlists,” Jörgen Skågeby discusses two uses of the cassette tape – tape trading and the mix-tape – in terms of the social bonding values that surround these practices. His argument is that while these cassette tape practices have largely been superseded by the “faster” mechanisms of streaming media, digital playlists and peer-to-peer services, the ongoing development of these services and practices can still learn from the forms of sociality that surrounded prior media forms.

Finally, Kit MacFarlane, in “Unplugging the Affective Domain: Can ‘Slow Spaces’ Really Improve the Value of Cultural Literacy?”, questions the emergence of the unplugging trend in pedagogical spaces, asking whether calls for a return to pre-electronic literacy will result in anything other than momentary or Carnivalesque inversions  of the status quo. MacFarlane employs the notion of the Affective Domain to argue that the either/or nature of the fast/slow, online/offline debate, obscures the more pressing and abiding concern with affective engagement and the development of personal world views. Most interestingly, MacFarlane takes his analysis out of the classroom and into the modern university at large, arguing that “the basic corporate hegemony of the university structure may be as disruptive to affective engagement with cultural literary values as any individual technological element.” That is, that the great danger to effective and affective university education today, is not at all a question of the “speed” of technology or the rise of social and mobile media; it is rather a question of the values and cultures under which contemporary universities operate.
Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Boredomresearch. “Real Snail Mail.” Neural, issue 31 (2008). See www.boredomresearch.net/.

Freeman, John. The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox. New York: Scribner, 2009.

Mackenzie, Adrian. Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed. London and New York: Continuum, 2002.

Rauch, Jennifer. “The Origin of Slow Media: Early Diffusion of a Cultural Innovation through Popular and Press Discourse, 2002-2010.” Transformations, issue 20: 2011.

Jennifer Rauch
The Origin of Slow Media
> Abstract

In recent years, a new subculture has begun to form whose members constrain their use of fast, digital media in favor of slow, analog activities. The emergent concept of “Slow Media” marks a cultural innovation, a new way of thinking about and engaging with communication technologies. Slow Media is both a philosophy (an appreciation of print and analog media that challenges mainstream assumptions about technological progress), and a practice (re-directing media production and consumption toward “slower” mediated or unmediated activities, often by reducing use of digital networks and devices). I create a snapshot here of Slow Media’s origins by looking at its early diffusion through popular and press discourse. My analysis focuses on three periods of development: precursors who envisioned such a cultural movement; the de facto emergence of Slow Media in 2009; and the idea’s diffusion during the first year. I discuss chronological, geographic and institutional patterns that show when and where people began talking about Slow Media, how it entered the public agenda, and which discourses have been influential in its wider dissemination. By constructing this preliminary history, I aim to help scholars interested in Slow Media, or other aspects of the media-avoidance and –resistance subcultures, to locate avenues for future research.

Tero Karppi
Digital Suicide and the Biopolitics of Leaving Facebook
> Abstract

In 2009 leaving Facebook became a trend. Two separate art projects Seppukoo.com and Web 2.0Suicidemachine presented digital suicide as a method to disconnect oneself from the social networking service.  In this article, I approach the problem of leaving Facebook. A critical analysis of leaving Facebook and using digital suicide sites illustrates how life becomes tangled and controlled in the ubiquitous webs of network culture, and moreover how biopolitical models of capitalism are embedded in the structures and practices of exploiting the users of social networks. Theoretically this article is inspired by critical studies of digital culture.

Daniel Ashton & James Newman
Slow Play Strategies: Digital Games Walkthroughs and the Perpetual Upgrade Economy
> Abstract

From the PDP-1 in the 1960s to the seventh generation consoles of the last few years, digital gaming is marked by continual development. The notion of the perpetual upgrade economy will be introduced as one of the key modes through which digital gaming is organised and promoted to consumers. The concepts of perpetual innovation (see Kline, Dyer-Witheford, de Peuter; 2003) and upgrade culture (Dovey and Kennedy, 2006) point to the emphasis on the continual alteration and upgrading of products, the generation of new commodities with ever-shortening life spans, and the design drive to permanently explore new capacities of each new generation of technologies.

In contrast, the overwhelmingly dominant industry focus on new releases and player practices of discarding digital games technologies in favour of successors, have been reconsidered in terms of recovery and subcultural memories (Ashton, 2008) and archives and preservation, supersession and obsolescence (Newman, 2009). In this paper, practices of walkthrough archiving are explored to consider how the industry logic of progression, speed and updgrade are disrupted and diverged from. Walkthroughs provide both a document of the game as designed and a record of investigations into the vagaries and imperfections of its implementation. This paper will consider three elements of walkthrough practices in terms slow media.

Jörgen Skågeby
Slow and fast music media: comparing values of cassettes and playlists
> Abstract

This paper examines speed in relation to music media. It compares values and common practices surrounding two specific cultural artifacts/media: the cassette tape and the digital playlist. The aim is to explore if and how our understanding of a now marginalized medium and its surrounding practices can co-inform our understanding of digital media objects (and their surrounding practices). Comparisons are made in relation to a theoretical framework of values; appropriated from gift-giving research, where values are grouped into use values, exchange values and social bonding values. The current focus on technical development and use values is tightly connected to increasing speed. It is thus hypothesized that a remediation of social bonding values is specifically important in helping users slow down both the creation and consumption of meaningful experiences in the hyper-abundant cultural media object range of today.

Kit MacFarlane
Unplugging the Affective Domain: Can “Slow Spaces” Really Improve the Value of Cultural Literacy?
> Abstract

In the popular presentation of calls to “unplug,” whether in the classroom or simply day-to-day life, young people may find their images summoned as an indicator of a changing nature of literacy, communication and understanding of the world around us. However, calls to re-introduce the young to “slow” spaces may leave the real challenges to cultural literacy unharmed, or even re-enforced. This paper will briefly examine two images of the young summoned in the counter-intuitively “fast” discussion of the “slow” unplugging movement and tie these to the recurring historical narrative of a more authentic “slow” space freed from human activity though various cultural analyses by Slavoj Žižek. This will suggest that “slow” spaces may emerge as Carnivalesque eruptions rather than true spaces of cultural change. Engagement with cultural literacy will then be examined in relation to the Affective Domain of learning that  produces the normalisation of values and world-views rather than mere replication of tasks, to suggest that, while institutions’ images may benefit from the presence of “slow spaces,” educators may find their actual engagement with slow learning and the Affective Domain to be an unsupported and unintegrated secondary addition to the primary “real-world” services expected by the institution and students.