How to Design an Unplugging Experiment

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How to Design an Experiment

Decide what your class wants to get out of the experience, so you can determine which media to unplug from. Three common choices are:

  1. To avoid all digital media—computer, cellphone, MP3 player, TV, video games, CDs/DVDs, etc.
  2. To spend time with no media of any kind, print and analog as well as digital.
  3. To quit using specific kinds of media, whether it’s screens, computers, cellphones, networks, devices, the Internet, or some combination thereof.

Decide when the class will unplug, and for how long. Most experiments are for one day, or 24 hours. Students might try a weekend or even a week, depending on circumstances. For example, the assignment might coincide with a holiday or break. Longer experiments might be done on an optional or extra-credit basis. Instructors might also ask students accustomed to practicing a Sabbath to unplug for an extra day, to increase the challenge.

Decide also how you will deal with “proxies.” This means having someone do online tasks for you while you are unplugged — e.g. checking your messages, looking up information, or posting something for you. Most classes consider this cheating, but you can have a fruitful discussion about what situations might justify the use of proxies.

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