Slow media – using digital media responsibly
Digital media form the basis of our knowledge society, and are indispensable in many contexts. But the pressure of being constantly available and the blurring of the boundaries between personal and professional life are becoming an increasing problem for workers in this era of digital media. In this interview, Sabria David from the Slow Media Institute advocates the considered use of digital technology and standards for 'digital safety at work'.
What is Slow Media all about?
Sabria David: The Slow Media approach analyses the impact of the digital revolution, for example on the world of work. The theory originates from the Slow Media manifesto, which I wrote in 2010 together with two colleagues. We developed cross-media quality criteria for the media, journalism, communication and publishing. The Slow Media approach acknowledges the technological opportunities of our age and advocates using them in a considered, responsible manner.
One key Slow Media issue for you is digital safety at work. You have developed the 'Interaction model for digital safety at work' (IDA) for this purpose. What is the motivation behind this?
Sabria David: I have observed that digital media have a very powerful and also measurable impact on the workplace. Various studies show that long absences due to burn-out have increased almost eleven-fold over the last decade. This has been caused by digitally-driven changes in the workplace – constant accessibility, the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional life, interruptions caused by emails, etc. IDA is a prevention strategy developed in accordance with the Slow Media approach that takes account of all those concerned: individual employees, teams and management. IDA is the scientific basis for the digital safety at work standard that has been developed jointly with TÜV Rheinland.
How does digital safety at work function?
Sabria David: Digital safety at work helps companies to deal constructively with the issues of accessibility, interruptions and 'media-based stress' caused by emails, mobile phones, etc. What's important for businesses is that their staff are focussed and productive, and remain that way. For this reason, digital safety at work is already being introduced at many companies.
At VW, it is no longer permitted to send emails at weekends. Employees at Daimler are allowed to delete emails that arrive when they're on holiday, and Atos has completely banned email as a form of internal communication since management ascertained that staff there were spending 20 hours a week dealing with them.
How are your Slow Media findings being received and adopted internationally?
Sabria David: Global feedback on Slow Media was huge. We had an immediate and very vigorous international response. We translated the manifesto into English ourselves. But less than two weeks later, a French translation appeared in France, to be followed by translations into Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Spanish and Catalan. Further translations are underway in Finland and Brazil. Using links to our blogs, we've counted feedback from over 30 different countries.
Which countries are particularly interested in Slow Media, and what do they have in common?
Sabria David: We're getting feedback from some very different countries – Russia, China, France, the United States, Turkey, Israel, India, Finland and Australia. They are all technologically advanced and have now got to the stage where they're asking themselves how they can meaningfully integrate this progress. So we appear to have hit on a critical issue with Slow Media.
Is Slow Media a 'luxury problem' of fast-paced industrialised countries?
Sabria David: It's only natural that the considered use of technology is an issue primarily for technologically developed countries. But what I find fascinating is the question of what's going on in countries that have not yet expressed a need for Slow Media concepts. Have they simply not yet arrived at a point where digital media are being used excessively – or maybe they're one step ahead of us and we can learn something from them?
Slow Media: 'Slow is beautiful'
Sabria David is joint founder and head of the Slow Media Institute in Bonn, which is investigating the impact the digital revolution is having on society, work and the media. The Slow Media Institute is also a partner of Science Year 2014 'The Digital Society'.
The Slow Media manifesto is available not only in German and English, but also in French, Russian and Spanish.
Discussion on Slow Media in the Community
What do you think about the last point? Does your home country need Slow Media concepts? Is the restriction of digital media relevant for you personally? Or do you consider it to be a 'luxury problem' of technologically advanced countries? Please share your views on the Slow Media manifesto on the 'Spotlight on Jobs and Careers' Community group.