Friday 7 February 2020

Slow Movement

Slow Movement: A Cultural Shift towards Slowing Down Life's Speed

It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

The World Institute of Slowness

Geir Berthelsen and his creation of The World Institute of Slowness presented a vision in 1999 for an entire "slow planet" and a need to teach the world the way of slowness. The motto of the Slow philosophy is - 'The fastest way to a good life is to slow down'. This website explains this philosophy in these terms:

What it's all about?

Slowness is a new way of thinking about time...
The vision of The World Institute of Slowness is to slow the world down to create healthier, happier and more productive people.

Unlike chronological time, it is non-linear time, the here and now, time that works for you, extraordinary time.
So why be fast when you can be slow? Slowness is also about balance, so if you must hurry, then hurry slowly. “Festina Lente!”

In Praise of Slow - Carl Honore

Carl Honoré's 2004 book, In Praise of Slow, first explored how the Slow philosophy might be applied in every field of human endeavour and coined the phrase "slow movement". In Praise of Slow (U.S. title In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed) is a book containing his analysis of the "Cult of Speed", which he claims is becoming the societal standard all over the world. He discusses and gives praise to the Slow Movement and the various groups around the world representative of this movement.

TED-Talk on 'In Praise of Slowness'

Journalist Carl Honore believes the Western world's emphasis on speed erodes health, productivity and quality of life. But there's a backlash brewing, as everyday people start putting the brakes on their all-too-modern lives. The transcript of the talk can be read here.

Baudrillard, Virilio & Beck - and the technoculture 

The dangers of speed which is an outcome of digital culture are perceived in a difference way by Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio and Ulrich Beck. This Slow Movement gives an interesting solution to the concerns raised by them. 

Jean Baudrillard describes the "simulacra" of postmodern life which have taken the place of "real" objects. Think for example of video games or music compact discs, for which there is no original in the way that reproductions are made of original paintings or statues. Virtual reality games add another dimension to the artificiality of postmodern life. Perhaps postmodernism is best compared to the emergence of computer technology. In the future, anything not digitizable may cease to be knowledge. For Baudrillard, postmodernism marks a culture composed "of disparate fragmentary experiences and images that constantly bombard the individual in music, video, television, advertising and other forms of electronic media. The speed and ease of reproduction of these images mean that they exist only as image, devoid of depth, coherence, or originality" (in Childers and Hentzi 235). Postmodernism thus reflects both the energy and diversity of contemporary life as well as its frequent lack of coherence and depth. The lines between reality and artifice can become so blurred that reality TV is now hard to distinguish from reality-and from television entertainment. (Guerin, et all.)

Paul Virilio's work on 'Dromology' - the Science of Speed - is an exciting reading of late twentieth century cyberculture. 

Dromos is an Ancient Greek noun for race or racetrack, which Virilio applied the activity of racing (Virilio 1977:47). It is with this meaning in mind that he coined the term 'dromology', which he defined as the "science (or logic) of speed“. Dromology is important when considering the structuring of society in relation to warfare and modern media. He noted that the speed at which something happens may change its essential nature, and that which moves with speed quickly comes to dominate that which is slower. 'Whoever controls the territory possesses it. Possession of territory is not primarily about laws and contracts, but first and foremost a matter of movement and circulation.'
Virilio also observed that Speed and technology replaces democratic participation, and undermine politics. Effective media politics diminishes the space of democratic political participation. Instantaneous communication actually reduces the time for detailed discussions, deliberations and consensus-building. This supports the culture of totalitarianism. This undermines the the values and spirit of democracy. Thus, speed of technoculture is very harmful to the democracy also. When we enter the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, the century of technology, we have already started to experience this undermining of democratic value systems by democracy itself.

Ulrich Beck propounded the influential 'risk society' thesis in 'Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (1992). 

Risk theory for Cultural Studies reveals the extent that society / culture thrives on risk, providing information about potential risk, possible solutions and so on. Risk theory reflects on the psycho-social impact of technoculture where cultural responses to new devices are based upon an awareness that they create new risk. Beck tries to explain the risk theory by the concept that - while looking for the solution of the problem, we device the solution which it self turn down to be the problem. Just we get entangled in the web of problem-solution-problem-solution ... till infinity.
Becks's solution to this autopoietic risk culture is to find political potential 'outside' government. Politics must be about being able to communicate between systems - something that is becoming increasingly impossible today. Thus, the complete indifferent of the government to any criticism - is a mark of the autopoiesis of the political system, The representatives of the people are no more accountable to the people. They refer to 'each other' in debates that are increasingly disconnected from the needs of the people. Most of the systems - social, political, technological - including democracy - are now self-referential: they generate risks and provide solutions, the solutions generate problems - and on and one - they talk only within the system and rarely to the 'outside'.
There is an amazing possibility in the philosophy of Slow Movement to answer to this crisis of Risk Society. 


Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016

It is no longer clear what role the University plays in society. The structure of the contemporary University is changing rapidly, and we have yet to understand what precisely these changes will mean. Is a new age dawning for the University, the renaissance of higher education under way? Or is the University in the twilight of its social function, the demise of higher education fast approaching?

We can answer such questions only if we look carefully at the different roles the University has played historically and then imagine how it might be possible to live, and to think, amid the ruins of the University. Tracing the roots of the modern American University in German philosophy and in the work of British thinkers such as Newman and Arnold, Bill Readings argues that historically the integrity of the modern University has been linked to the nation-state, which it has served by promoting and protecting the idea of a national culture. But now the nation-state is in decline, and national culture no longer needs to be either promoted or protected. Increasingly, universities are turning into transnational corporations, and the idea of culture is being replaced by the discourse of “excellence.” On the surface, this does not seem particularly pernicious.
The author cautions, however, that we should not embrace this techno-bureaucratic appeal too quickly. The new University of Excellence is a corporation driven by market forces, and, as such, is more interested in profit margins than in thought. Readings urges us to imagine how to think, without concession to corporate excellence or recourse to romantic nostalgia within an institution in ruins. The result is a passionate appeal for a new community of thinkers.

If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia. Yet the corporatisation of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency from faculty regardless of the consequences for education and scholarship.
In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the Slow movement in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education. Focusing on the individual faculty member and his or her own professional practice, Berg and Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality. The Slow Professor will be a must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life.

Baudrillard, Jean. 'Simulations'. Trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchnan. new York: Semiotext(e), 1981.
Beck, Ulrich. 'Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Trans. Mark Ritter. London: Sage, 1992.
Berg, Maggie, and Barbara Seeber. 'SLOW PROFESSOR: CHALLENGING THE CULTURE OF SPEED IN THE ACADEMY'. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division 2016
Guerin, Wilfred L., Earle Labor, Lee Morgan, Jeanne C. Reesman, John R. Willinghan. 'A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature'. 5th Indian Ed. OUP. New Delhi. 2007.
Nayar, Pramod K. 'An Introduction to Cultural Studies'. Viva Books. India. 2011.
Virilio, Paul. 'Pure War'. Trans. Mark Polizotti. New York: Semiotest(e), 1997.
Virilio, Paul. Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology. New York: Semiotext(e), 1977 [1986]

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