Eliminate media technology from your life for 4 days. For 4 (four) consecutive days you are to do without radio, tv, newspapers, magazines,and the Internet (other than as required by work or school). Other reading is fine. Try not to ask others what is going on in the world. Write a short paper–about 3-4 pages–in which you describe how you experienced this deprivation period. Your essay should address each of the following: What your normal media routine is (a very brief description of a typical day) What you did and did not miss What you did with the extra time What the experience taught you How your interactions with others were affected How your moods were affected Remember, the state you will be putting yourself in was the state everyone was in all the time not that long ago. Many of us rarely go more than a few minutes without the radio or tv on, at least as background. Reflection is increasingly a lost art, a lost pleasure. One consequence of the loss of reflection is self-alienation.

Even though we might spend a great deal of time alone–commuting in the car, watching television in the evening–very little of this time is spent in quiet reflection of one’s own thoughts, in knowing oneself. When given this assignment, many students report having very uncomfortable moments. Many of us get into our cars and the first thing we do after starting the engine is turn on the radio. The act is habitual, and very likely you will find yourself doing this during the assignment. Then you will turn off the radio (hopefully), but very likely there will be several times when you impulsively reach to turn it on again. The silence–being alone with your own thoughts–can be both uncomfortable (Why? is a good question)and newly pleasurable. Should you encounter such nervous moments, I encourage you to persevere and not yield to the temptation to turn on the radio again. Similarly, many of us walk into the house or apartment and turn on the radio or television before we even sit down. Why? Think of the times when the power has gone off in your house. With no electricity, the house becomes eerily silent. At these moments we realize how much noise we constantly live with: the hum of the refrigerator, the rattle of the furnace, the low whine of the computer, and so on. For many people this silence is punishing. Years ago I had a roommate and, when the power went out once, she soon became so agitated by the silence that she drove to the store to buy batteries for her radio.

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