Unplugged – A global media experiment.

Hundreds of Bournemouth University (BU) first years are sacrificing their TVs, mobile phones, the internet and all other gadgets for 24 hours as they take part in a groundbreaking global media experiment called ‘Unplugged’.

BU Lecturer in Communication and Journalism, Dr Roman Gerodimos, is leading ‘Unplugged’ in the UK. He said: “We expect many students will find it challenging, especially after the first few hours. It will be interesting to see whether and how they adapt their daily routines for these 24 hours and obviously how many of them make it to the end.”

‘Unplugged’ is a collaboration between universities and researchers from five continents – Europe, North America, South America, Asia, & Africa. It examines young people’s relationships with the media, including news, music, television, mobiles, the internet and all other types of media and technology. BU students are the only UK students taking part.

A pilot study conducted in the US in 2009 revealed some astounding results: “Students reported feeling withdrawal symptoms that were similar to drug or alcohol addiction,” Roman said. “The words ‘addiction’ and ‘dependence’ kept recurring in their narratives. They felt they lost connection with friends and family, even those living nearby, but also thought that the study was an eye-opener as it gave them the opportunity to reflect on the extent to which the media is part of their lives.”

Students record their experiences in a short, blog-style essay and fill in a questionnaire. Researchers want to hear back from everyone who took part, even those who did not manage to go the full 24 hours without media. Roman explained: “The reasons for which they dropped out (if they did) or the media, applications or activities that they most missed are key to our understanding of their relationship with the media.”

The results of the experiment are likely to have a considerable impact on technology education as Roman explained: “At an educational level it could benefit our learning and teaching strategies, but it could also make us more sensitive to young people’s needs for socialisation and awareness. Subsequently, this experiment could inform the way we develop technologies and media applications for young people and especially for particular demographic groups, such as students who live away from home. The issue of digital inequalities (or “the digital divide”) is also very important as the experiment can enhance our understanding of how students from different backgrounds access the media.”

Students can choose any consecutive 24 hours, between 18-24 October 2010, to take part in ‘Unplugged’.