The Craftivism Q&A

23rd March 2012 by

We’ve had a hankering recently to know all about this thing called craftivism, so we’ve kidnapped Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, locked her in the Otesha dungeon and turned our interrogation lamp on her. Here’s what we learned… [Thanks, Sarah!]

Oh, and if you can’t get enough craftivism, watch what happened when Otesha patron and comedian Josie Long got crafty with the collective.

Alright, then. What’s craftivism when it’s at home?

Craftivism is activism through using craft methods: provoking people to think about global injustices in a non threatening, non preachy way, normally as street art or as gifts to people, and through cross-stitch (like mini protest banners left in public), hand-embroidery (like our Don’t Blow It hankies to give to MPs, teachers, bankers etc) and other craft methods (bunting, shrink plastic gifts etc).

What’s this collective, and what led you to get involved in craftivism?

The Craftivist Collective came about in 2008 when I came to live in London for a job. I felt like a burnt-out activist like many do, going on lots of marches, signing lots of petitions, going to activism meetings and not feeling like we were getting anywhere.

Plus I’m not a natural extrovert, so didn’t like doing stunts, dressing up, talking to strangers, asking them to sign petitions, going on marches, and I don’t like some forms of activism that are aggressive and demonise people. Craftivism was also a reaction to clicktivism and slacktivism and not feeling I fitted into some groups – I’m too scared to ride a bike, I’m not vegan and I love fashion and reading Vogue.

I also got really into cross-stitch because I’m naturally creative and didn’t have space to paint, plus I could do cross-stitch in my room, on public transport and to calm me down after a stressful day at work.

You also get time to reflect and think when crafting and it feels achievable, so I wanted to craft items with social justice messages in them that I could think about whilst stitching – but then leave them in public places for other people to think about the issue.

So I went to see my nan in Shetland in August 2008 with a bag of craft and a burning desire to be an activist again but in a sustainable and fun way, and in Shetland I came up with the idea for Mini Protest Banners to make and put up in public. I googled craft and activism groups and the term craftivism popped up. I contacted Betsy Greer, who coined the terms, and asked if there were groups I could join but there weren’t, so I just started doing it alone.

The banners wouldn’t tell people what to do or be negative but would be quotes or facts to provoke people to think about our global neighbours. I cable-tied them to places linked to the issue (e.g. flagship unethical stores if the fact was about sweatshops; outside financial districts talking about extreme, unbridled capitalism etc).

People started commenting on my blog asking if they could do it too, so I set up the collective for people to email me their banners, or join me in London to do craftivism, and its snowballed from there. We now sell kits, create instruction videos, workshops, events and people around the world deliver our projects, which is amazing! :) I’ve gone part-time in my job to have more time to give to it.

The ‘collective’ is a loose term for people who get involved, whether they are abroad or meet us at our monthly stitch-ins in London. We want everyone to feel part of our collective and encourage people to email us a photo and blog about their craftivism piece for us to put on the website, tweet, fb etc.

What’s the nicest public reaction you’ve ever had to your craftivism?

So many to count! :) People often ask us what we are doing when we are in public in a group or as individuals. When we explain it, most of the time people are really interested, ask more and then leave telling us to keep doing it. Some people take photos to send to friends or take a flyer to give to someone they know who is crafty and would love to hear more about us.

The reaction I am most proud of is from a banker who is quite high up in Goldman Sachs. He was given one of our prints by his long-term friend from uni. He emailed her to thank her and said it prompted him and his wife to have a thoughtful long conversation about what they can do in their position to help the most vulnerable. = amazing! :)
And have you ever had a very bad reaction to the craftivism you’ve done?

Sometimes, very rarely, we get comments from more hardcore activists saying we are too positive, too cute, too fuzzy to make a difference. We try and have a dialogue with these people to say we are not campaigners but rather there to provoke people to think about an issue in a non-threatening way We also see our value in reaching new audiences who might be nervous of activism and don’t feel they belong to other groups that might be louder, more extrovert or just into different things.

We are passionate about engaging shy, creative types into activism and being that stepping stone. Plus we reel through the list of benefits of craftivism. Normally that ends in the other person understanding our benefit in the activism world. But you can’t please everyone.
There seems to be a bit of a craft revival – knitting, bodging, cross-stitch, sewing – they all seem pretty zeitgeisty right now. What do you put that down to?

There is always a resurgence of craft in a recession- mostly it links to the Make Do and Mend ethos. But I also put it down to people feeling stressed, disempowered and wanting to do something. Crafting really helps people’s confidence, helps them feel valued, helps reflection, creativity and feeling you have achieved something.

I think I’m a bit rubbish at making things. Shall I not bother?

I didn’t go to art school and was never taught any formal craft skills. I learnt by doing and watching YouTube videos and still get lots wrong (my nan always tuts when she sees the back of my messy cross-stitched pieces). I make sure that all of the projects I create are accessible to all regardless of craft skill or political experience.

We create instruction videos for people to learn from, kits people can buy with instruction sheets and suggested content and we offer talks and workshops. If you really don’t want to stitch with us you can be an honorary ‘Craptivist’ who buys our postcards, gift cards, prints, ‘Craptivist’ badge (our mentor Sam Roddick came up with that name!) and spread the word through giving these gifts to people.

What’s the collective got planned – anything coming up you’d like to shout about?

Lots! :) All our events are on our website and Facebook and tweeted. We do monthly free Stitch-Ins at Royal Festival Hall every 3rd Thursday of the month, 7-9pm, where people can come and bring their own craftivism project do to, buy one of our kits and get a free tutorial from one of our experienced craftivists or just come and have a look, chat and see if they want to get involved.

We also do paid workshops that have more structure where you learn about the history of crafitivism, the benefits, some craft skills and can discuss justice issues with other attendees (for our June and September Sunday workshops 2-4:30pm email barley@fabrications1.co.uk to find out more).

Plus I get booked in to do talks and workshops for organisations (in the past they have been with Southbank, Tate Gallery, Hayward Gallery and others) so I’m looking to book more this year (if any one knows anywhere that might want a craftivism talk or workshop please get in touch!).

I’m off to Berlin in May to do a talk and workshop at an event DaWanda.com have asked me to do; some craftivists in Glasgow are planning on getting me up in October to deliver a workshop and teach them how to deliver them; I’m working with St Fagan’s museum outside Cardiff to deliver a workshop to complement an exhibition they are doing in June; and Ink-d Gallery, Brighton, have asked for more artwork and prints from me to show – I’m looking to book a workshop in the Gallery with them and stitch on my own underneath my craftivism work and tweet people to join me.

What’s your big dream? If craftivism achieved what it’s setting out to do, in its entirety, what would a craftivist utopia look like?

So many dreams: to be featured in Vogue, to deliver a TED talk, to have our products selling in lots of shops and e-shops across the world especially non-political shops, to deliver talks around the world on the power of craftivism, have more exhibitions, get funding to do Craftivism Bootcamps to train people up to deliver projects, workshops and talks so it’s not just me (I would make them a certificate at the end to prove they are a craftivist!).

My dream is that everyone knows the benefits of craftivism and it is seen as another great tool to encourage people to be the best people they can whilst they are on this planet. Encourage people to fulfil the world’s potential to be a just, fair and sustainable, beautiful place. Oh and I would, selfishly, like to be a full-time craftivist rather than have a part time job to pay my rent!

Moving pictures that get you moving

7th March 2012 by

Olivia Furber is an Otesha alumnus from our mammoth LeJog (Land’s End to John O’Groats) cycle tour. Not only that, but we are so proud to learn that she has just won a Young Achiever’s Award – well done, Olivia! In this guest post she describes how she was inspired to use the emotional power of cinema to rouse herself and others from armchair apathy.

Have you ever seen a film that has moved you, stuck in your memory, or told you something you didn’t know before? I’m imagining the answer for most people is ‘yes’. Films, be they documentary or fiction, have the power to relay information in a compelling and emotive way and to give voice to stories that need to be told. Some films even have the power to profoundly change your behaviour and perception of the world. This was certainly my experience.

About two years ago I was feeling pretty depressed about climate change, environmental degradation and my seeming inability to do anything to stop them. I felt powerless and useless. A turning point came when I watched The Age of Stupid, a story told from the perspective of an archivist living in a devastated planet in the year 2050. He looks back 40 years and asks ‘why didn’t we act when we had the chance?’

If you haven’t seen the film then 1) watch it 2) expect to feel depressed. I came out of the cinema feeling panicked. I was filled with a sense of urgency but didn’t know how or where to direct this feeling. Once again I felt useless. Then I had a lightbulb moment. If films could provide information and urgency, then I should show them to as many people as possible. After all, who doesn’t love a good film? But I needed to do more, I needed to provide avenues for people’s energy and enthusiasm to be harnessed, post-viewing.

I let this idea simmer for a little while and decided that the solution was to organise an environmental film festival that went beyond the screen. The idea was to organise a series of carefully selected films (fiction, animation and documentary), screen them for FREE to the general public and accompany each screening with an activity  and avenue for action that complimented the content of the film.

Showing the films for free was really important as I didn’t want there to be any barriers to people attending. I was also aware that there was a certain stigma attached to environmental films, the idea that an environmental film would, by definition, be preachy and depressing. To challenge this perception I sought out films that were upbeat and humorous.

I was lucky enough to get a generous grant from the University of Edinburgh – and Cineco, Scotland’s first environmental film festival was born. I had 3 months to get the programme together and recruited an excellent team of fellow volunteers to help me. The first step, selecting the films, was great fun, as it involved watching film after film, often from the comfort of my bed. Once we had selected the films, and paid for the rights to screen them, we began the hunt for a host venue for the festival and put our thinking caps on about what activities would best complement each film.

In the end we programmed 14 events over three months. I absolutely underestimated how time consuming organising events is and taking this on in the final year of my degree proved to be a bit of a challenge, but people’s feedback and the great audience turnout made it absolutely worthwhile and kept levels of enthusiasm very high.

Each event was more than just a film screening. We had panel discussions, Q&As with directors, waste-food banquets and tea tastings, to name just a few. Most importantly, each event provided an avenue for any enthusiasm or interest aroused in the audience by the film. Local and national environmental groups were invited to each screening, all of whom told audiences about actions they could take that evening or that week to contribute to solving issues presented on screen.

We had an overall audience of 800 for all the events and myself and the Cineco team were invited to two climate change conferences to speak about the power of environmental film to address issues and effect change. It was a really inspiring experience and a model I hope others can follow.

Significant Others

7th February 2012 by

Millions of couples will celebrate Valentine’s Day next week. Already this poses major issues for me:

1.  Isn’t this just another capital way to spend more money on stuff you don’t need? ie. roses… which in reality are sh*t.

2. On a general basis, there’s an assumption that you only have one heterosexual partner.

3. And is this only a celebration of partners? What about all the single folk? Surely nothing’s wrong with celebrating your singlehood, right?!

So it got me thinking – why not celebrate my love with an alternative celebration? Something a bit quirky, entertaining, and a bit of a challenge.

So I’ve been working on The Significant Other Festival, which aims to do just that.

The Pensive Federation asked seven writers to create a seven-minute play in seven days with the theme of the Significant Other. They handed the scripts over to a director and a company of two actors and gave them seven days to stage it. The result will be performed this weekend – just before Valentine’s Day.

By creating theatre in a confined period of time, they hope to capture what real people think and feel about love and relationships in the 21st century. Through this format, they were able to draw together a company of creative people from different backgrounds, and experience.

Full details and links for the shows at the foot of this post if you’d like to come and see.

Another element which is key to the company’s success are the volunteer participants. From writer to stage manager and even the poster designer, everyone is passionate about the festival and is keen to volunteer their time.

This also opened another door for service exchanging. Calu Lema (superhero Otesha cycle tour co-ordinator) so kindly offered her services to design the poster. This tied in incredibly well to her own blog, which challenges her to take on 12 new tasks for 2012. You can read all about her gift economy ethos as well as how The Pensive Federation poster design was Task number 1.

I leave you with something to chew on:

‘Significant other’ is colloquially used as a gender-blind term for a person’s partner in an intimate relationship without disclosing or presuming anything about marital status, relationship status, or sexual orientation.

So what does the significant other mean to you?

Come and see the show!

Dates: 11 and 12 February
Times: 3pm and 7:30pm daily
Tickets: £7.00
Location: Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PY

For more details, click here and to purchase tickets click here.

Tuning out

15th December 2011 by

The TV in my flat has disappeared! We haven’t been burgled, though. Our big, boxy old cathode ray goggle box is actually gathering dust on the floor of the spare room, unused. We moved it out of the way in preparation for a party back in August, and it hasn’t been moved back since. We’ll probably recycle it back onto Freecycle before long, which is where we got it in the first place. Or maybe we’ll have a ritual smashing.

And now there’s not only a big space in the corner of the living room – there’s a big free space opened up in our heads, too. It’s been liberating.

It’s not that we don’t veg out on the sofa any more, I’m afraid. There are, these days, the temptations of iPlayer, 4OD and all the rest – unlike the last time I went telly-free, when I ended up doing a lot more reading and going out (and fielding baffled questions along the lines of ‘But what do you do if you don’t have a TV?’ Which I always thought was a question, on escaping their lips, that ought to bring the questioner up short and cause them to look at their own life, but never mind. If I’d known about it at the time, I’d have simply sent them to this lovely project.

So we still veg more than we should, really (no one will lie on their death beds wishing they’d spent more time watching screens).

But what good has happened is that we’re exposed to many, many fewer advertisements, to the extent that when we come across them now they have a weird, alien, even surreal feel. Do advertisers really speak to people in these strange tones? Do they really think the bland and airbrushed lifestyles they depict is what we aspire to, or identify with, and so will cause us to buy their product?

The problem is that it takes a prolonged period of not being exposed to ads in order to see their inherent weirdness. Yes, even if you think you’re not affected by ads, there’s good evidence to suggest that you are. Not only that, but that it is capable of chipping away at the values that you and others hold dear – and that are vital to social, economic and environmental justice.

WWF and the Public Interest Research Centre produced a fascinating report recently, Think of me as evil?, pulling together the available academic evidence on the effects of advertising. It will have made pretty excruciating reading for advertisers who claim that criticisms of their ‘trade’ are overblown.

One by one it pulls apart the defences put up by the advertising industry: that it doesn’t increase people’s overall consumption but simply persuades them to switch between brands; that it doesn’t create an acquisitive culture but simply reflects our society’s existing values. The report not only shows that these arguments are almost certainly nonsense, but points up still more alarming effects of saturation advertising. Such as?

  • Exposure to TV advertising increases the tendency to take on household debt and work longer hours in order to meet increased expectations
  • Advertising undermines people’s ‘intrinsic values’ such as community, affiliation to friends and family and self-development and boosts ‘extrinsic values’ such as envy of higher social classes and admiration of greater wealth or power – and this really matters, because extrinsic values are associated with “higher levels of prejudice, less concern about the environment and lower motivation to engage in corresponding behaviours, and weak (or absent) concern about human rights”
  • It makes us cynical: because advertisers sometimes appeal to intrinsic values – see Dove’s ads assuring us that all body shapes are legitimate – the fact that we know they are doing so in order to hawk a product makes us less trusting of other appeals to intrinsic values, such as, I don’t know, fighting environmental degradation or sweatshop labour

Great. So we know what to do, right? Junk the telly, don’t buy magazines. But that’s not so easy for most, and even if it were, you only need to step outside to be bombarded by billboards, logos, ads on buses, ads on taxis, giant screens in public places, funky viral ads on pavements. Every surface is covered.

So is it a losing game to fight this apparently unstoppable tide of shilling and mental pollution? Most of the time it seems that way. So it’s time for some inspiring examples to show that we should make a stink and that we can fight back.

Sao Paulo - photo by Márcio Cabral de Moura

But never, never underestimate the cynicism and stubbornness of the corporate world to turn anything into a marketing and selling opportunity – even Sao Paolo’s anti-advertising revolution made one company see an opportunity to make a buck. This one’s up there in the pantheon of cynical opportunism!

This issue really matters. It’s a question of rights – our right not to have our community spaces colonised by corporate occupiers for the very shallowest and most damaging of motives.

And as the WWF/PIRC report eloquently showed, it matters to movements like ours because it chips away at people’s sense that they can and should make positive change. It is a kind of negative magic, working changes in our consciousness without our consent and making the insane and the polluting appear to be desirable choices.

“To complete the task of breaking away from the murky thinking and the tangled nonrational drives that dominate contemporary life … it’s necessary to break away from the lifestyles and everyday choices that are produced by that thinking and those drives.

“Mind you, the same equation works the other way around: to make the break away from lifestyles that demand energy and resource flows we can’t count on getting for much longer—and making that break is perhaps the most essential task of the decade or so immediately before us—it’s going to be necessary to turn away from the thinking patterns and the unmentioned and usually unnoticed passions that make those lifestyles seem to make sense”

John Michael Greer

Piece of Meat

10th November 2011 by

Update: We’ve been in touch with the Vegan Society who assured us that they “have values which avoid the exploitation of human animals, alongside our vegan values” and had nothing to do with this stunt. It turns out the stunt was organised by PETA , no big surprise given their track record objectifying women.

I stumbled across this horrible caption competition today. I’m not going to put the photo up here because it makes me feel really unsettled. It shows children’s TV presenter Sarah-Jane Honeywell lying ‘like a piece of meat’ naked  on a giant plate with some plastic chips and peas. Bizarrely this stunt  happened in Trafalgar Square to mark World Vegan Day. This is inappropriate on so many levels.

I don’t understand how Sarah-Jane Honeywell, her agent, the children’s TV channel she represents, all the people working on World Vegan Day and the Orange phone network (who ran the caption competition), could have agreed to this piece of meat stunt without realising that it was a wildly bad idea. Also, given that it is now properly winter, why would anyone agree to lie down naked on a plate in Trafalgar Square?

It’s really unfortunate that for the majority of women who want to make a career in the media, their body is still the most effective tool they have. I have sympathy for people who think that this is their option for career progression, because in some cases (due to no fault or short coming of their own) this is probably true. Even so this one crosses a few boundaries. Children’s TV presenters, if anyone is, should surely be exempt from this sort of soft porn stunt.  Clearly treating people like meat makes for an inappropriate stunt.

Urggh, I’m going home for a vegan dinner and since it’s November I’ll have all my clothes on.

Bikes! Art! What else do you need?

24th August 2011 by

Inspired by the amazing ARTCRANK event last week, I wanted to share a few of my favourite bike art projects of the moment:

The Good Bike Project - I just learned about this project and I love it so much. In defiance of a mayor who has publicly said that its cyclists’ own fault it they get hit by a car, some residents of Toronto, Canada, started a street art project by painting abandoned bikes around the city in bright neon colours . Even though the first bike got ticketed, new ones kept springing up around the city to the point where mayor has begrudgingly given his support to the project.

Bike are colour coded depending on their significance. For example, green bikes mark sites of urban planning significance , like bike lanes that are getting removed, orange bikes point to emerging local artists, and blue bikes celebrate community-building locations.

Contrail – A colourful street art projects that turns bike tyres into (non-toxic eco-friendly) paintbrushes. The idea is that by leaving behind colourful trails, cyclists will be able to “talk” to each other, make highly-used cycling routes visible, and help improve safety on guided bike rides with beginners. (I could see this being super useful to for leading teams to mark paths on Otesha tours. No more head-scratching, map-holding confusion on unmarked country roads!)

Rides a Bike – a blog dedicated to photos of old Hollywood stars on their bikes. I challenge you have a scroll through this site and not feel cheerful. It makes me happy just thinking about it. For example, have a gander at Patty Duke and Frank Sinatra Jr on a bike (a tandem no less!):

More modern celebrities are also featured on the site. Check out Pee-wee Herman on his shiny red steed:

Happy!

Fancy a mini ethical fashion fest?

25th February 2011 by

Well, you’re in luck!  Our friends at The Papered Parlour are taking over the Museum of Childhood.  Workshops, live music, performance, and craft stalls – including our famous tetra pak wallet making workshop beckons you to join us and celebrate ethical fashion and its growing social movement.

When: Thurs 3rd March from 6:00-9:00pm
Where: Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA
Cost: free!

For further programme details, click here.


Craftivist Mission of Love (and Justice)

9th February 2011 by

I was very excited when Sarah Corbett of crafty activist group The Craftivist Collective got in touch to ask if I would help her make a video about their Valentines project, and even more excited when I heard that Joise Long, Otesha’s very own patron, was getting involved…

For the last few years the Craftivist Collective have been attempting to ‘hijack’ valentines day by asking people to “show some love” for their global neighbours, as well as their BFs, GFs, BFFs etc. This year they have teamed up with the cult jewellery designer Tatty Devine and on February 14th will be taking to the streets all over the UK to plant alternative love letters, complete with beautiful handmade keyrings, so that they can be stumbled across and make someone’s day whilst raising awareness about climate change. The idea is that whoever finds the letters will not only have the instant impact and mind stirrings from reading the letter (extract below), but will have a beautiful keyring to keep, which will remind them of the project and hopefully spur other actions and conversations.

To my Valentine,

Every year February 14th comes around and provides us with a beautiful opportunity to show someone we care about them: most of the time we direct that love at just one person. This year I want to encourage you not to limit that extraordinary capacity we have to just one person, but to love the world. In the name of love, brighten up someone’s day and remind them of our global community and inspire them to get stirred up to think about how the poorest people in the world are being affected by climate change, despite having contributed the least to the problem.


The best thing about the project is that anyone can get involved – there are already groups doing the project in London, Leeds, Bristol, Bangor and Newcastle. I really recommend it – even just making one, it’s brilliant hiding the letters and then watching people find them and the intrigued bemusement and fat smiles that ensue, all whilst raising awareness on a day which has become so ridiculously commercialised.

There is a template for the letter and instructions on how to make the keyring on The Craftivist Collective website.

Mobiles, social media and revolutionary technology- Part II

3rd February 2011 by

I’m a luddite, and I’m fine with that. But aside from disliking the increasingly intrusion of technology and the internet into all aspects of our lives, I do recognise that all this media can be used for good.

When people took to the streets in Iran in 2009 they didn’t call it the Twitter Revolution for nothing. Whilst Twitter didn’t spark the street protests, it was a crucial medium for getting information to others in Iran and the rest of the world.

In October 2010 UK Uncut was 70 protesters in a doorway and a Twitter hashtag. A few months later UK Uncut is a truly nationwide social movement of direct action against the cuts, that wouldn’t exist without social media. “We don’t have any money, little expertise and we’re kind of winging it. But it seems to be going well and we seem to have hit a nerve.” Twitter, facebook and the rest have made it easy for complete strangers to organise spontaneous protests. Stowing an internet connection in their pockets has enabled protesters to report on their actions as they happen. Uncut has taken to the high streets targeting those they believe have been dodging corporate tax and the staff of Vodafone, Topshop, Boots and Tesco up and down the country are familiar with Uncut faces.

It’s no surprise that when the internet went down in Egypt last week the Egyptian government was suspected of cutting access (Vodafone Egypt admitted it had been instructed to suspend services in some areas). According to Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent, “for millions, in countries like Egypt, the ability to get instant access to information which could change the shape of their lives is becoming as much of a human right as access to clean water”.

Last weekend’s Education Cuts March marched off their designated route and on to the Eyptian embassy where they joined the anti-Mubarak protest. And they were not kettled by the police! This is the first of the student demos to have ended so peacefully and the lack of kettling has been credited by some to Sukey,  a security-conscious news, communications and logistics support service for demonstrators. Through a smart phone and mobile phone application Sukey collects and displays real-time police and protest behaviour, and tells protesters how to avoid being contained by the police for hours. It takes it name from the nursery rythme, “Polly put the kettle on, Sukey take it off again.”

As we become more and more connected, the possibilities for exchanging information, ideas and revolutionary inspiration are expanding exponentially and reaching people all over the world. The internet really does have the potential for a democratic and free media.

Mobiles, social media and mindbending technology- Part I

3rd February 2011 by

Anyone who’s ever met me will know that I am not a fan of mobile phones or anything beginning with i. I have a mobile and am as reliant as the next person on the internet. But I don’t like it. I wish all this information was in my head and not stored as bookmarks on my screen, I wish I could organise my life with people and not with my inbox. The problem with the internet and our constant connectivity is that, whilst it makes everything possible all the time, too much choice makes a simple life impossible most of the time.

Right now as I type I have seven tabs open on my screen, half of these are things that I am in the middle of reading. Everytime I pause for thought, instead of staring at the wall, I check my emails. This is arguably more productive than staring at the wall but I don’t think it’s helping my thought processes. Some days I find it really hard to read an entire article in one go.

I am clearly not the only one finding my concentration span disintegrating under a barrage of information. A friend confessed this week to checking emails in her lectures. Almost every conversation with friends involves some fact or figure being checked on someone’s i-phone, or being treated to photos of what someone else had for breakfast. Why do you even need maps anymore when the world wide web’s worth of information is all in your pocket? Because I like maps and I reckon lots of other people do to, otherwise why do people keep hanging them on the wall?

I am really really glad that I did not grow up with this much technology constantly vying for my attention. The advent of mobile phones has done more harm to education than a bulldozer in a public woodland. My experience working in schools and colleges is that some young people are umbilically attached to their phones, they would rather you remove their thumbs than their texting technology and, whether talking to peers or adults, cannot hold a conversation without their own personal soundtrack piped into one ear. At least when we wrote notes we were also practising handwriting, spelling and grammar. I’m sure some schools have managed to successfully ban phones from the classroom, but these handy pocket devices are just that and so they will always sneak their way back in. Now every young person has one it’s only a matter of time until technology mimics life with a Passing Notes App, a GCSE Cheat App and a The Dog Ate It App.

I’m not the only one concerned about all the the constant ringing, tweeting and flickering that’s interrupting our lives. The New York Times has written lots about how the internet is changing our brains. “Technology is rewiring our brains,” says Nora Volkow, one of the world’s leading brain scientists. Constant bursts of information are not just disrupting in themselves, they’re undermining our ability to focus even when we’re not online.

Whatever the effect of technology on our brains, it will be heightened in the young people who grow up without knowing what it’s like to wait for a roll of camera film to be developed, what it means to make someone a mix tape and what socialising is without social media.


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