Dr Roman Gerodimos from Bournemouth University shares the results of a social experiment which challenged its volunteers to be without any forms of electronic media for 24 hours.
The 2010 Ofcom Communications Market Reports states that the average Brit spends more than half of their waking day (between 9 and 10 hours) either online, on the phone or watching television. This means that we are glued in to some form of media or the other, often while doing our daily chores. We’re so used to living in a world where we’re controlled by media and technology that the thought of losing it for for a few hours seems impossible, let alone a day.
But at the start of the 2010 semester term, 530 first-year students from Bournemouth University pledged to give up all forms of media for 24 hours. They were joined by students from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. Dr Gerodimos was in charge of organizing the media black-out to the first-year students.
Re-discovering our love for books
‘When people have media taken away from them, they do things they would not normally do – like read books, meet other people and socialize,’ said Dr Gerodimos.
He said the biggest medium to have gained from this experiment was books as the students all seemed to go back to titles on shelves that lost priority over other more current-forms of media.
‘A lot of people were surprised to rediscover their love for books. They had this revelation of how much they liked their books. They sat down to read a chapter and finished a book. The way we use the media, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to use books. It’s not like we more important things. We just fall under a habitual pattern. It sucks the air from other things.’
Shorter attention spans and multi-tasking
Andy McDermott, who has just sold his millionth copy with Empire of Gold, lives in his pad filled with gadgets – Playstation 3, Kindle, iPad and endless amounts of DVDs. From personal experience he, too, admits that things have changed drastically over the last few years.
‘My attention-span has definitely decreased,’ says McDermott. ‘I could finish an entire book in one sitting a few years back, today the same book takes me two days to finish because there’s always something else to do. Even when I’m reading a book on the iPad, I can’t concentrate as I’m always a swipe away from Facebook or some other app.’
‘The pattern in which we use new media, especially like internet and smart phones may indirectly affect our other activities. Its not like Facebook causes cancer. Its not like consuming a specific medium will have a direct effect. Its just that you have less time to do other things. You have more multitasking and less deep reading. None of my students have ever read a whole journal article without printing it off. That’s not what they see it for,’ says Dr Gerodimos.
‘When the medium is taken away it reminds them of books. You think you have loads of options in new media and a lot of choice with millions of websites, but realistically you visit the same 10-20 websites and then there’s a long tail. If you see the activities we’re involved in, it’s like 3 or 4 activities and then there’s a long tail, so it’s that choice/freedom which is very overestimated.’
Not everything we do online is meaningful
Even though the day was as eye-opener for media students, it was well received and many of them want to try it again. Some re-discovered their love for books, while others discovered their dependence on the media, but some students received the biggest anti-climax of their lives when…
‘Some people who were dying to go to Facebook but when they signed in after 24 hrs, they got the biggest anti-climax of their lives as they had zero notifications. This encouraged them to realize that not everything we do online is meaningful. This experiement helped them appreciate the benefits of everything we take for granted.’
Click here to read the worldwide study’s Top 5 Highlights.
Click here to read Bournemouth University students recount their 24 hours without any form of media.
Posted on June 25, 2011, in Digitised and tagged andy mcdermott, books, bournemouth university, love for books, media, ofcom, repercusions, roman gerodimos, students, teenager, unplugged, withdrawal symptoms. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.