Why analog counter-culture will disrupt technology

Is analog the new organic and 24/7-connectivity a drug that became a part of our culture? Then OFFTIME can be compared to methadone, a substitute drug to overcome addiction?

Zeit magazin article

The German newspaper article published on 16th July is headed “Why we all should be less connected”; it features Wilkens and OFFTIME among other persons and things which deal with the subject of disconnection.

Following the call of Berlin’s Tech Open Air, OFFTIME hosted a public satellite event as part of its ongoing series of meetups on how to live in a hyperconnected world. For that purpose, on 16th July, OFFTIME invited for a fireside chat with André Wilkens, author of “Analog is the new Organic”– a book that has recently seen a massive hype. As it happened on the very same day the German newspaper magazine “Die ZEIT” published an intense article on the increasing need for people to disconnnect, featuring both, Wilkens and OFFTIME among others. Good to know that Wilkens and OFFTIME found each other anyway.

OFFTIME approached Wilkens for an informal exchange and to gain more insights since they clearly have a similar interest: The risks and side effects of digital technologies.

You can read about the event in “Berliner Zeitung”, see more images and listen to the full conversation. Or just stay here and read our own recap:

The graphic recording of the talk shows the challenges for a sustainabe, balanced lifestyle within the hyperconnected world.

The graphic recording of the talk shows the challenges for a sustainabe, balanced lifestyle within the hyperconnected world.

Initially Wilkens was triggered by a movie store in his neighbourhood. He was astonished that people still are attracted to something ‘analog’, physical and real while all kind of content (including movies), is available online and 24/7, on serveral devices. What started with a newspaper article of 140 characters became a book of about 200 pages; since then Wilkens’ input is of ongoing interest.

Wilkens hit a nerve by creating a link between today’s proponents of an “analog lifestyle” and the grass roots movement for organic food that started decades ago. Both may be representing a minority (market share for organic food is at 4% in Germany) yet with a undeniable impact on the mainstream. It is a niche and Wilkens likes niches as much as he likes OFFTIME: “I already become a promoter of your app”, he says to Michael Dettbarn during the talk. Thanks.

Challenging Complexity
The fact that Wilkens’ book consists of somehow dis-/connected thoughts on social and political developments as well as personal media habits brought him some critique. Yet as it became also clear within our one hour talk, the overall subject of constant connectivity really is complex. The discussion between Wilkens, Dettbarn and their guests raised subjects like multitasking (“We should promote mono tasking” – Wilkens), dependency (“Does Technology need to change or do we as humans?” – Dettbarn) and the role of the individual (“This tiny little organism that has to be connected with everyone, all the time” – Wilkens).

OFFTIME Co-founder Michael Dettbarn and author André Wilkens during the talk.

OFFTIME Co-founder Michael Dettbarn and author André Wilkens during the talk.

Who is responsible?
“I want to disconnect but I cannot” a guest says when asked about his personal experience. “You are supposed to be online all the time” adds another women. “Even at home?” Dettbarn asks back and she nods, adding that this may be one of the rather unhealthy cultural parts within the company she works for. Critical thoughts on the overall system in which we all act and interact soon compose another topic to be discussed. Wilkens is ready for this:

“I didn’t intend to go that far but I think it’s a crazy system if people who want to disconnect are scared that they miss this one call on which their next income supposedly depends on. If the system is already like this we may indeed have to change the system and someone has to start.” – André Wilkens

Challenging the Status Quo
Surely the system is one part of life and living. The political level plays a crucial role in here and Wilkens highlights quite nicely how challenging this progress is. So to stick to the individual for a moment: We have the choice to say “no”, don’t we? These days it seems to be of value to refrain from 24/7 connectivity and avoid the floods of information to a certain extend. But this turns out to be challenging as well.

“One of the reasons why we developed Offtime is that many of us feel tempted by the available information around them. We’re tempted by our digital devices that are designed to be used all the time. And we just can’t keep our hands off them.” – Michael Dettbarn

Asked how the idea for OFFTIME came about, Dettbarn explains how he and the other two founders themselves struggled to take some time off, disconnected from the digital. So even if has a sense of irony to it it was rather logical to support people in this task with a piece of software that could ease the process of unplugging by creating transparency and again a feeling of control.

Graphic recording

The conversation was visually captured by Julian Kücklich.

If digital works like a drug, as Wilkens notes, we media users and -producers, might be better off exploring ways to overcome this kind of addiction. Wilkens executs this even further and with a sense of humour: OFFTIME may be the methadone, a substitute drug for all those digital junkies who need their devices, now.

“I don’t have to”, is one of Wilkens’ concluding statements. And although smartphones can be switched on again after the talk, he and his companion prefer to get a grip on the iStone, a Swiss made piece of art.

André Wilkens

Wilkens and his companion explore the iStone.

Do we need to neglect technology in order to regain control over ourselves? OFFTIME is driven by the overall desire to create an appropriate, customised work-life-tech-balance that acknowledges the advantages and disadvantages of connectivity and allows people to make their very own, individual choices. And similar to Wilkens, OFFTIME believes that technology needs to follow individual human needs and desires, not vice versa. There is no harm in having a moment of rest and reflection for instance to reconsider the aim of technological developments such as smartphones or knocking trends like the Internet of Things“.

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