The Slow Web Movement

May 14, 2013

It is no surprise that face paced movements in technology have changed our own habits, distracted us, sped our lives up, our patience wears thin if a web page doesn’t load in two seconds, we skim pages as opposed to taking in every word. We expect instantaneous or live feedback. We are now faced with approximately 34 gigabytes of information and roughly 100,000 words a day. Many of our conversations take place in half sentences on social networking sites, on cell-phones, and in text messages. We work on machines that are designed to interrupt us, keep us on the ball, on edge, then in the evening; we go home and try to relax with our machines, media meshing, TV, laptops and smartphones. The stress of information overload in our daily lives has even sparked a new phenomenon – sleep texting. People with the rare condition send incoherent text messages while asleep to their friends and family – completely unaware that they are doing it!

The general advice on most people’s lips is that if we want to relax, we need to “switch off”, take a digital Sabbath, not check mail in the evening, don’t bring phones into the bedroom, turn phones on silent during meals, disable internet access.

However, there is a currently a movement known as “the slow web” or “calming technology” or “conscious computing” that claims we can actually use our devices to Zen out and calm us down. Visionary thinker and thought leader, Linda Stone, describes conscious computing as “allowing technology to become a prosthetic for engaging with our full potential”. It is in a nutshell not the fast web. The Slow Movement advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace. It began with Carlo Petrini‘s protest against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di SpagnaRome in 1986 that sparked the creation of the Slow Food organization.

The inventions so far to come out of the slow web movement include developments such as Isolater, a small menu bar application that helps you concentrate, so for example, when you are working on a document and don’t want any other distractions, Isolater will cover up your desktop and all icons on it so you can concentrate on the task in hand.

StayFocused is an application for Google Chrome that helps you stay focused on work by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.


Turn off the lights is one of the most popular Chrome an extension, attaining over one hundred and fifty thousand downloads per week. The browser extension lets users obscure everything on their screen except the Flash or HTML5 video they’re watching, minimizing distractions and making for a more pleasant viewing experience for the internet users.

Conscious computing tries to break the cycle of checking your email at every millisecond of the day, but to check at fixed points to encourage productivity (see calmbox) to turn the notifications off on your apps and take control of your life online.

So does my constant connectivity, which the world of media advocates mean I’m out of control? I beg to differ.



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