July 10, 2016

On Internet Fasting and Unplugged Living: Blocking the Internet and Making Use of a Shattered Cell Phone

I am about to embark on a three week internet fast.  This unplugging has become a summer ritual for me.  In 2010, I chronicled my first experience with detaching from the web.

Scenes from last summer's fast:

Blocked Internet - Collage on Wood

I was looking for the Minuteman Bike Trial, a rail-trail that I thought led roughly from Lexington, Mass. into Cambridge, Mass.  I asked at the front desk where I was staying in Concord, Mass., and the older woman, though she had a computer in front of her, said she did not know where to find it.  She suggested inquiring at one of the local tourist spots.

Riding the Trails

In town, I inquired at the venerable Concord Inn and was given a map of Minute Man National Historic Park, that noted a bikeable section of the Revolutionary War Battle Road.  This was not the trail I was looking for.  However, loaded with history, wooded dirt paths, tourists from across the globe and planked boardwalks with banked turns through swamps, the route was a bike ride for the ages.

Had I solely searched the web and avoided interactions with not always precise humans, I would have simply found my original destination (the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway - America's Revolutionary Rail Trail) and missed out on an unknown treat.

Printed Information

This weather report from The Boston Globe served me well.  So I got a little wet enjoying pedaling up and down the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway.  Might planning using an hourly forecast inhibit touching all of life?

Another day, as I arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I found a man struggling to take a selfie with a large sculpture behind him.  I asked if he wanted me to take his picture.  When I showed him the image, smiling broadly, he exclaimed, "Wow!"  I think that selfies may have become a culturally acceptable way to limit interactions with strangers.

However, you will have to take my word for this interaction, as I have no digital proof.  Unplugged from the web, I would be shamed in David Eggers' The Circle, a creepy fictionalized (?) world where "Privacy is Theft".

Pony Express

Back home, I wanted to send some postcards, but did not know the proper postal rate.  I asked my mail carrier, who called headquarters to find out.  They later called back: 35 cents.

"I guess you don't send postcards," I said.

"Jeez, no," he replied.  "I can't remember the last time I sent a postcard.  I guess I don't go on vacation to interesting places." He laughed.  "No one would want a postcard from where I live."

Have You Ever Gone to a Movie that You Knew Nothing About?

One day, I wanted to go to a movie.  At my library, the movie schedule was buried deep inside the third newspaper I searched.  "Self/less" was the only movie that fit into my time frame.  I experienced wonder as the movie began.  I knew nothing about the movie and had no idea what to expect.

Had I seen previews, a trailer or a review, I would likely not have chosen to see it, as I am not big on science fiction.  However, I appreciated the overall message that out of human frailty and violence, forgiveness and reconciliation are possible.

Disclosure: During this internet fast, I went online to find the closest urgent care center.  I also occasionally asked family members to look up something for me.  And, one time in a hurry, I looked online for movie times.

Paper, Pastels, Block Printing, Mod Podge, Driftwood
Over the course of a couple of weeks last fall, I found three pieces of a shattered cell phone in the parking lot as I arrived to teach at American International College in Springfield, Mass.  I later inked the pieces and printed them on paper.  I added some background color using pastels.  I used Mod Podge to affix the paper to a piece of driftwood harvested from coastal waters off Nahant, Mass.

Some of the ink unexpectedly smeared when I applied the Mod Podge with a brush.  Also, I was not careful enough when attaching the paper to wood-that-could-have-been-smoother and ended up with distracting wrinkles in the paper

Life's Over, Or Just Beginning?
So I tried again.  Over the course of several weeks, after printing the cell phone parts, I worked the pastels, striving to have the colors blend and meld.  I needed a touch of Wite-Out to remove some stray ink fouling the integrity of the circular button shape.

Paper, Pastels, Block Printing, Mod Podge, Driftwood, Wite-Out
Whereas with my first try the ink accidentally smeared when I applied Mod Podge, the second time around I purposely used the technique with consistent directionality to enhance that falling feeling.  I also sanded the driftwood to a smoother surface and took more care when affixing the paper with Mod Podge to achieve a uniform smoothness.

Solid as a Block

Even the title was a work in progress.

I Wish You Could Feel the Heft
I am ready for my next internet fast.  I am ready to encounter life without knowing what is going to happen before it happens.  I invite you to join me for an hour, a day, a few weeks, or more!

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @professornordell