Slow-Tech as the New Religion

Is slow-tech a useful concept for the study of low-tech action? It seems to be on the rise in the form of apps that help you to lead a slower life. But what is it? Is it something more than just a counter-reaction to capitalism & speed?

Slow-tech defines itself in opposition to e.g fast food and the instant gratification of consumerism. When I first heard the term slow food there were all these connections to environmentalism, health, spa, buddhism, etc. I guess it came from San Francisco? (eh, no, stfu)

Apparently, this is called the slow movement and it appeared in the 1980’s. It’s the anti-thesis to the high speed of modern society (>-Virilio -<), but is framed more as a sort of consumer-health-issue in an idealised harmonic society, than something political. It’s still about consuming. It’s still about equilibrium. And for me, ultimately, it seems like a form of wellness – when you make individual choices to get a “successful lifestyle”.

The slow web makes more sense to me. The key features of the slow web has been described as Timely (not real-time), Rhythm (not random) and Knowledge (not information). It sounds very reasonable. In fact, maybe it’s even a bit too reasonable?

I agree that these things are important for a sort of modern media literacy. We need to learn how to deal with the tools and information of today. And probably, we need technology’s help to do it. It can help us to reduce stress by structuring shores, or motivate us by turning real-life sequences into “games” where you collect points and get more things done in your life. Augmented reality, etc.

But idk. Slow? Is that really so good? Looking at e.g slow-tech, it seems like a postmodern version of the californian ideology. There is an underlying idea that technologies can help individuals to become more free. That should basically be the purpose of technologies. So there is still a lot of nature-culture divide in there. In short, it’s antropocentric. Connect your body to AppStore – be successful and happy.

To be blunt: the slow movement sounds like a lazy, ego-centric, new agey and half-arsed alternative to consumerism. Speed isn’t bad, per se. Maybe speed is just what we need to get some *real* alternatives together.

Yesterday I saw The Take (2004) about workers reclaiming abandoned factories in order to make a living. There is a fitting slogan in there: occupy, resist and produce. To me that sounds better than … you know … slow tempo, sustainability and individual health. Less weed, more speed!

If you are interested in stuff like this, I recommend the documentary series All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace by Adam Curtis.

7 Responses to “Slow-Tech as the New Religion”

  1. Trixter Says:

    Nice summary, although I’m more harsh than you (I think the slow-tech people are misdirecting a fear of technology with a fear of consumerism).

    The reason I want faster tech is so that I have more time to myself. Don’t people need a fast high-tech life so that they can have enough time left over to lead the slow life?

    • goto80 Says:

      Imo, some things should definitely be fast. Rendering, loading, connecting, etc. But when fast becomes the main priority, other important aspects are ignored. And according to some, more computer power doesn’t lead to more productivity either. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Productivity_paradox

      I can agree with some of the things that the slow movement talks about. But I don’t really agree with their solutions.

  2. Linda Says:

    just jumping to the “I want faster tech so I can do more”: I haven’t seen it happen. (pessimistic mode on) The only thing fast tech has given us is more wasting of tech and energy. More demand, more false promises and more sloppy development creating shittier software. I’m sorry but I’d probably even prefer a simple HTML blog with tables than a whole WordPress system. When it comes to updating content it won’t necessarily take more time and it saves a shitload of computer cycles on the server side.

    I wasn’t aware of the “slowtech” movement, sounds more like a play of words. To me slowtech would be back to pen and paper, snailmail, making a phonecall (from a landline) instead of skyping from your mobile phone. I guess it’s more a less-tech than slow-tech.

    I’m gonna have a find but there’s someone who graduated on stupidity. The interesting bit which I’ve remembered was something along the lines of “stupidity creates the need for intellect to solve the problems caused”. To me that’s exactly what fast tech is all about. Society is too stupid/lazy (economy; money and time oriented) to invest in smart use of the new techology and only making stupid solutions (make it faster, bigger, cheaper).

    (pessimistic mode off) Oh isn’t it a lovely day! I’ve got 2 temporarily pets. 2 snails traveled to me from my parents garden in the salad. And hell, they have a thing for escapism and go real fast! Maybe slow isn’t that slow after all, we just need more salad (in my mind refering to someone’s tv performance. Can’t help but have to think about that everytime I’m preparing salad… :D) (sorry for the long post, I’ll go educate myself a bit more with the links)

  3. goto80 Says:

    Yeah, faster tech hasn’t caused more waste in themselves. The low quality of software is perhaps caused more by coders not having enough time and resources and understanding to develop good shit. Quality is not cool! :) And with open source dev the fragmentation always risks making it bloated. WordPress argh!

    Also, I think both yours and my arguments could’ve been heard already in the 80’s, or even 70’s. Already back then we had amazing computer power at our hands, but ended up using them mostly for bullshit entertainment anyway. I mean, in most cases we don’t really care if the tech is used in smart or efficient way. Because we don’t understand the difference. Maybe?

  4. Lionel Snell Says:

    On the “faster so I can do more” bit: the problem I see is that the initial advantage, which is indeed real, tends to erode as society adapts to it. Forty years ago fax gave a huge advantage – instead of rushing to catch the post you had time to complete and fax it off at your leisure. But within a decade what had been a benefit was now an expectation – deadlines got shorter and one could no longer say “it’s in the post” as an excuse. That’s ok, until there is a fault with the fax machine or phone line, and suddenly you are under pressure to deliver instantly and are spending more time trying to get it repaired or to find a fax agency open than you would have in the past just writing a letter. And so it goes on: yesterday I got a tax demand and was expected to get it into the tax office at zero notice. Mercifully it worked, transferring money into the country and on to the tax office, but i was very stressed knowing that it only needed one link in the chain to be slow or to crash and I would be fined. It also took all morning to arrange, partly because someone had pirated our capped ADSL allocation and I had to buy more.

  5. goto80 Says:

    Hello internet, perhaps read this some day: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=593604

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