Slow Computing

This is concept I have been playing around lately, becoming gradually more and more serious about its potentials. Hopefully it would be caught up by discussion.

  • Slow computing: conceptualise it as an oppositional and revolutionary concept, like ‘slow food’ is in opposition to ‘fast food’.
  • Slow computing is not necessary about slow processors or weak technology. It is about computing that is used emphatically to pay attention to the quality and content, rather than to the quantity (be it mega- or gigahertz, mega-, giga-, tera-, or pentabyte, or what ever billions of polygons the technology pundits usually point our attention towards).
  • Slow computing is information and communication technology (ICT) that is put to the service of people, paying attention to the sustainability of lifestyle and preservation of our planet.
  • Slow computing may e.g. be a choice to use a slow, cheap laptop, running long on batteries, rather than investing into over-efficient hulking monster, unnecessary for everything else except the most graphically intensive games.
  • Slow computing may take the form of passive displays, slow on screen refresh times, but able to serve text and images while sitting outside, reading while thinking, paying attention. e-paper that is able to display and keep its contents without any further use of energy is slow computing technology. Energy efficient, small devices that take all their power from solar energy are slow computing.
  • Slow computing is all about how ‘less is more’.
  • Slow computing may take the form of applications that reduce and filter junk, so that the really important things are only ones that are there left, for your time and thought.
  • Slow computing may be a service that helps you to join forces with other people in organising your efforts collectively, reducing waste of human energy and effort.
  • Slow computing may be attitude, or cultural shift, rather than any single technology in itself. It is part of movement that says: ‘Wait, stop – did you say we need that to do this?’ It is about thinking alternatives.
  • Slow computing is not luddite ideology. For example, if it is possible to use rich media and teleconferencing rather than jet planes across the ocean to organise a meeting, then ICT has fulfilled the requirement of slow computing: allowing people to stay put, save time and energy, and concentrate on the actual matter at hand.
  • What is your view on slow computing?

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the Tampere University, Finland. Occasional photographer and gardener.

3 thoughts on “Slow Computing”

  1. “the real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers” (Sydney & Harris in Eves, 1988)

    It is interesting your post, reflecting the reality: we humans, we need time to process things, we need time to live 🙂 .

    However, the term slow computing triggers some no positive cognitive reactions in me, which does not make me to embrace the term right away. Even if the concept, as you describe it, makes sense to me. In addition, I am not sure if fast computing is the main cause or the driven force of most of the points that you mention. I am on the side that is the economical and business models that control our capitalist economies. Time is money!!! It is needed to earn and win more, more, more….

    Sometimes I wonder if our “modern civilization” is so developed or if it is our decadence. In this civilization we are not learning to live, we are learning to survive. Even if we have enough number of tools in order to enjoy life more comfortable in all senses, we do not enjoy life. In this civilization the main focus is into produce otherwise you will be eaten by a faster or better producer 😦 .

    To follow your concept, I would suggest the term quality-computing (Q-computing), in order to support the quality of life. Nowadays we do not want only nice appealing tools that will work stable and smoothly (also fast). We also want quality tools and systems in harmony with our environments, and they should support a quality life style as it is implicitly mentioned in most of the points above.

    That will be lovely !!!!

  2. Well, I still prefer ‘slow computing’ myself — ‘quality’ is too inflated word these days, and does not really convey the meaning. Against all this mad rush, we really need to slow down, and slow computing emphasises that message. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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