Norwegian Television's Slow Burn

We’ve conditioned ourselves to skip around. Float between browser windows. Fast forward. Scroll back.

We can’t wait. We rarely slow. We definitely don’t stop.

And despite outcries over the last few years for technology detachment, (digital disconnection retreats and Wired’s #unplug series we recently blogged about, for example) that’s still just a theoretical fantasy for us. We struggle with how to put that into practice.

That’s why Norway’s national broadcaster (NRK) is so radical.

Call it the “Slow Television Movement.” In 2009, the network broadcast live a 7-hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen. No commercials. No commentary. No cutaways. It proved so popular, that two years later, they mounted cameras onto a cruise ship and kept them rolling for five straight days during the ship’s voyage to the Arctic. The response? 60% of Norway’s population tuned in to watch.

This year, a half-day special on firewood ended with a two-hour, one-camera shot of a fire burning in a fireplace. All crackle and sparks. Here's your challenge: Stop what you're doing and watch it...for longer than 2 minutes.

I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. “Television is still technology.” And we would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to advocate the benefits of sitting in front of the screen for hours on end.

But how refreshing is the simplicity of this programming? How novel is this concept that focuses on the mesmerizing power of just being?

Without noise, ticker scrolling or the analytic jabber from talking heads, we’re left with the cathartic nature of a slow burn.

-Tanner Latham - @TannerLatham

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