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The Slow Information Movement

I’ve noticed in my reading lately a trend toward a returning appreciation for print from those immersed in online technology. As I was thinking about tracing at least one thread of this meme, I was able to construct this progression (which has much more to do with how I’ve found these ideas online, rather than the order in which they actually came about):

Aaron Cope’s papernet concept
Marks and Meaning
Russell Davies’ ‘new schtick’
Ben Terrett’s ‘Things Our Friends Have Written on the Internet’ project

There are also numerous services online now that allow you to either submit files for print, like; others will aggregate content for you for print. It’s hard to know whether online technology is ultimately better than analog, specifically when it comes to interacting with text and images. On the face of it, it seems much more efficient to use emails and instant messaging rather than printed memos or other kinds of printed correspondence, both from a time and corporeal resource point of view. Also, these kinds of technologies certainly reduce the use of paper and printers. However, I’m unclear as to whether they are ultimately a more ‘green’ approach. Here’s a take on it that I hadn’t fully considered yet.

In a post entitled Why Do We Assume that Online Publishing is Greener than Print and Paper?, Barney Cox concludes:

“When it comes to the environmental impact of communication media, print is usually singled out as the dirty old man. It is understandable why that should be. In the shiny, weightless online world, everything happens in the twinkling of an eye and it is possible to instantly view a Web page or email created on the other side of the world… The technology is easy to use – and makes it easy to forget that there is a huge infrastructure humming away behind the scenes… By contrast, the physicality of the printed page shows rather than hides the resources that went into providing the paper that supports the design. Every time we turn the page of a magazine or pick up a book, it reminds us of the raw materials and energy that have gone into its production…

Environmental considerations alone will not kill print or online communication, but a better understanding of each medium’s sustainability strengths and weaknesses can help to make better-balanced decisions about which to use and how. It may be that environmental, ergonomic and physiological factors all move in the same direction, so that the more time you are going to spend reading and the more complex the information, the better it is to read from paper – from the point of view of your planet, your eyesight and your reading pleasure.

For readers who do not want to be harried and distracted by online chatter, perhaps we may yet see a Slow Information movement akin to the Slow Food movement; both are better for the digestion, and better for the world.”

Any objections? Any reasons to absolutely have something in print rather than online?

By the way, one look at the Kindle 2.0 landing page would seem to suggest that the print-to-online progression is inexorable…

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