Doing Sociology EXTRA CREDIT – The “Unplug” Experiment DUE___________________
Sociologist Bernard McGrane is noted for having designed a series of experiments that are widely used in teaching sociology students. In the 1990s, he conducted the famous “Un-TV” experiment, which he asks students to “watch” TV without turning it on. While these experiments may appear simple at first, the ideas they highlight are very sophisticated. Students are required to use a beginner’s sociology mind and set aside all their prior judgments, opining and even experiences. This helps to achieve an unusual level of consciousness about a particular aspect of their everyday lives.
This assignment is inspired by the “Un-TV” experiment but lets you decide which form of media technology you’d like to unplug from. It should be something that regularly takes up your time and attention and that might actually be hard for you to give up. For most people, the most ubiquitous device in their world is a smart phone, but you could also choose a computer, music player, or a tablet, or some other media format you use a lot, like cable TV, radio, or video games. Think about how long you can go without using this technology or device on a typical day (or longer). If you’re like many people, even a few hours away from your phone or computer screen might seem like a very long time.
How are you going to feel when you can’t text message, watch video on YouTube, post pictures on Instagram, or check your newsfeed on Facebook? We take these technologies for granted and cannot imagine our lives without them – but maybe life would be better! What are some of the benefits of unplugging? When we detach from our devices we also get to disconnect from the overstimulation that comes from living in a media-saturated world. Can just a few hours of being unplugged reduce anxiety, dependency, fatigue, and information overload? Or does unplugging make you feel even more stressed out? That’s what this experiment is designed to reveal. A great part of the difficulty of this experiment is actually getting yourself to do it. But even more so, it can be a challenge to confront your own habits and dependencies on a deep level. The “Unplug” experiment asks you to do just that.
ASSIGNMENT: Choose a media technology for the experiment. This should be something you use regularly but that you can safely turn off for a period of time. Remember to have a ‘beginner’s sociology mind’….just see what you see and feel. The idea is for you to notice the way the technology permeates your everyday life and what happens when you try to resist using.
- Determine how long you will go without this technology; it could be for an hour, an afternoon, or three days, depending on how often you use it. What’s important is to create an impact by turning it off. Is the time period you determined adequate in length to produce meaningful results?
- Go about your daily business while you refrain from using your chosen technology during the designated period. Don’t become distract. Keep a part of your focus on what’s happening with the experiment d check in on yourself frequently. Take notes during or immediately upon completing it.
- What happens as the experiment unfolds? Are you having any difficulties? When and why? What are your thoughts, feelings, and sensations? How attentive are you to the details of your reactions?
- What happens as time progresses? How is it different the further or closer you are to the end of the allotted time for the experiment? Are you relieve to turn on your device again? Or were there some unexpected benefits of turning it off? What do you see now about using the technology that you did not notice before? Does it feel any different to resume using the technology after having conducted the experiment?
- Why did you choose this technology, and how does it represent an interesting experiment?
PAPER: Complete the above experiment. Using the above prompts, write a 3-4 page essay outlining and analyzing your experiences and insights.
Grading – up to 20 points extra credit
– Submitted on time: 2
– Followed directions: 3
– Thorough: 5
– Thoughtful, creative, sociological perspective: 5
– College effort (typed, spell check, etc.): 5