UnSummit Unplugged Incites No Riot

Posted on: Sunday, October 11th, 2009
Posted in: Blog | 2 comments


photo by Kirk Horsted

At the impressive UnSummit unconference Saturday, I hosted a session called “You: Unplugged” for a roomful of truly screen-centric souls. I was prepared to speak heresy and spark controversy. Imagine my surprise when, instead, they turned out to be moderate and mellow—with a good sense of concern and humor about their choices.

This lovely blogpost by UnSummit unorganizer Meg Canada tells all about it. (Thanks, Meg!)
  • A 12-pack of questions
Though the session was largely unscripted, I had compiled a 12-pack of questions that we would dip into when I (or a participant) wanted to move on. (This kept the conversation ‘flowing’—and made sure any windbags couldn’t take over!) In a clever twist, I put the questions in an empty (unfortunately) 12-pack carton of Twin Cities’ beloved Summit beer.
As if that weren’t enough, when it was time to change the topic, I would make my cell phone ring—in homage to the intrusive nature of digital devices and nonstop connectivity.
  • Hey, where’s the controversy?
Frankly, teeing up this provocative topic with those techno-brainiacs had me a bit fearful. What if my less-is-more, silence-is-golden message falls on deaf ears? Will I feel dumb? Am I blind to the obvious benefits these folks believe they receive from online living? Even the UnSummit’s founder and digi-guru, Don Ball (of Polymer Studios in Minneapolis) sent me this message the day before the big event…
I’m hoping you inspire a digital riot. But instead of torches and pitchforks, they’ll have glowing iPhones.”
Well, no phones were thrown. And they told the stories… so I rarely had to. Good, thoughtful stuff, too, like…
  • One attendee confessed to the angst that lasts about 24 hours or so when he visits the family cabin in a brown-out zone way up north. After withdrawal, though, he finds books, nature and family perfectly engaging and even forget that he’s unplugged.
  • Speaking of family and vacations…a handful admitted to taking their digitalia to family gatherings so they have an excuse to escape. Cute!
  • Several claimed still to be avid book readers; none had yet found a kinship with Kindle.
  • Most agreed that creating some unplugged times and zones was a good (if sometimes challenging) idea—especially those with children.
  • They think the mania of Facebook and Twitter probably are trends, and though they’ll stick around in some reduced form, will likely go the way of the Pet Rock in the next few years.
  • Most agreed it is bad manners to ruin a good (real-life) social conversation about something unknown by pulling out your iPhone and obtaining the answer(s).
  • There seemed to be some consensus that social media IS viably social. I may beg to differ; “social media” is, to me, an oxymoron. When compared to face-to-face, Facebook-to-Facebook “socializing” is fragmented, curt, one-sided and passive-aggressive. I mean, where’s the body language? Laughter? Love?
But I argued not. After all, they may be right.
  • But enough about SM …let’s talk BreakAways!
Joy, oh rapture—some of them wanted to short-out the unplugging discussion and confab about BreakAways:
How do you do it? Do you unplug when traveling? Do you use GPS when in a new place? Don’t you get lost? Do you reply to comments on your blog?
I was all too happy, of course, to take a detour into the Sabbatical alley—and did preach the necessity of spending less screen time when on a dreamy trip. I mean, how can you see Paris if you’re eyes are stuck on a screen? Yet I do confess that writing and taking pictures (and posting them online) makes me more attentive and curious as a traveler—so long as I don’t get carried away. As for getting lost, heck yes! That’s often the point. In Venice, for instance, my best memories are of stumbling upon bars, churches and piazzas without help from a guidebook or GPS.
  • All is not lost
The average teenager sends 1,700 texts a month now. Perhaps my audience does too, though none were that young. I’m ready to rumble an audience someday that is addicted or at risk. But as for my friends at UnSummit, they know what they’re doing—and they’re the early adopters intrepidly leading us into the future, whatever that may look like.
I also attended several other UnSummit sessions. Met many savvy, fun people (including a Facebook friend whose face I’d never seen in the flesh). And learned lots.
  • Biggest takeaway? At the end of the day, these thoughtful technophiles probably have more to teach me than I have to teach them.
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2 Responses to “UnSummit Unplugged Incites No Riot”

  1. Unsummit3 Feedback and Finds | UnSummit Blog Says:

    […] Horsted mused about unplugging some […]

  2. Kirk earned caramels. | Says:

    […] Kirk isn’t exactly a client. I met him at the very first UnSummit where I attended his “You: Unplugged” session, and some time after that (and perhaps a few coffees at Wilde Roast), he invited me […]

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