‘Green, slow, sustainability, biological and ecological’ are concepts that are much more present in media nowadays than a few years ago. People are becoming more aware of the way products are produced. Whereas the media industries rise attention for the ‘green issues’ surrounding (mass) production, the media industries can learn to be more sustainable theirselves as well. The slow movement is an initiative in which sustainability is very important: There is slow food, slow fashion, slow parenting, slow education and even slow media. Diverse discussions have erupted lately about how a dose of slowness could improve mediated lives. Inspired by Slow Food, many people have proposed movements for Slow Media, Slow News, Slow Journalism, Slow Books, Slow Communication, Slow Blogging, Slow Word, Slow Reading and more. In this blog we would like to elaborate on the slow movement and discuss different case studies that can be linked to this.
As said before the slow movement contains slow media as well. There even is a slow media manifest in which is stated that: ‘Like “Slow Food”, Slow Media are not about fast consumption but about choosing the ingredients mindfully and preparing them in a concentrated manner. Slow Media are welcoming and hospitable.’ They have 14 aims, of which one is: ‘Slow media are a contribution to sustainability’. Sustainability relates to the raw materials, processes and working conditions, which are the basis for media production. Exploitation and low-wage sectors as well as the unconditional commercialization of user data will not result in sustainable media. At the same time, the term refers to the sustainable consumption of Slow Media.’
Even though the slow movement is a good initiative to a more sustainable life, it is still rather small. Justin Lewis underpins in his article ‘The Dead-End of Consumerism: The Role of the Media and Cultural Industries’ that twenty-first century consumer capitalism is no longer an effective model for human progress. He argues that the media is divided into two sides. The first one focuses on the selling of commodities, while the second one is more open to the political imagination. It is important that consumers get more aware of what they are actually buying. The consumers should be more informed about new ideas that help provide a more sustainable life. Justin Parikka stressed in his article ‘Media zoology and waste management’ that there are new ideas related to the media industry:
These ideas use not only different materials but a very different set of material thinking altogether, building from biodegradable matter (for instance computer parts that are biodegradable) as well as in relations to nature in ways that are described as biomimetic. The constant back and forth co-determination is what characterizes this medianature-assemblage. It is here that media technologies are essential nodes in this epistemo ontological tie, with an important relation to questions of waste, but also to the level of design we are thinking/doing regarding the world of ecological life as well as non-organic reality.
An example related to the quote is the idea of phonebloks. This product is a more sustainable phone than ‘normal’ mobile phones, because it doesn’t have to be changed every once in two years. When one part of your phone is broken, you can replace this part, without having to buy a complete new phone. However, we live in a society wherein people are constantly triggered to buy new things. Justin Lewis also stressed this in his article. We are surrounded by advertisements, they are everywhere. Will a product like phonebloks even work in our western capitalist society?
Another example which is more likely to succeed, are the projects of Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde. His design projects do not have an immediate connection to the media industry, but they are great examples of creative initiatives which can contribute to a more sustainable world. Coming back to our positive experience with the Eindhoven design students, we would like to give some design related examples. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde and his team of experts are using patented ion technology to make the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner. Here the cleanest park in Beijng is created where people can experience clean air for free. As a tangible souvenir, Roosegaarde designed Smog Rings of compressed smog particles. Each high-end ring supports the cleaning 1000m3 of polluted air. Apart from this environmental friendly initiative they also have a lot of other projects. Three of those are the Smart Highways, Glowing Lines and the van Gogh path. (source)
Smart Highways are interactive and sustainable roads of tomorrow by Roosegaarde and Heijmans infrastructure. The goal is to make smart roads by using light, energy and road signs that interact with the traffic situation. Glowing Lines are lines that charge at day-time, and glow at night, as you can see in the clip below. The recent Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle path is made out of thousands twinkling stones inspired by ‘Starry Night’. The path combines innovation with cultural heritage in the city of Nuenen, the place where Van Gogh lived in 1883. (source)
Roosegaarde creates designs that are both beautiful and sustainable, which is a very impressive skill. He shows us that it is possible to create environmental friendly things that bring something extra, like the ‘Starry Night’ interpretation of Van Gogh. It are examples that connect to the ideals of the slow movement, wherein we can see a system that creates lines that charge at day time and therefore provide light during the night. It is not stealing from the earth, it is working together with the earth.
Starry Night – Van Gogh
These two clips show the brilliance of how creative thinking can help to improve our environment. With the role of the media we can promote these sustainable ways of living. The media should invest more in the creative and sustainable initiatives instead of the selling of commodities. As Maxwell Miller also stressed in his article ‘Neglected Elements; Production, Labor, and the Environment’
Our aim here is to find ways for media production studies to help establish a just system of environmental accounting, which challenges the creative industries to stop stealing from the Earth and from working people in the name of growth.