A Day Without Media

A Day Without Media

COM 150  Glenn Booker



On January 19, 2013 I went 24 hours without mass media.  I will describe that day, compare it to a normal day in my life, and respond to the questions about my experience.  I picked a day in which I was in a workshop from 10 am to 10 pm to make the exercise easier.  The workshop was The Essensual (sic) Experience by Monica Day.  I’ll try to keep my description of the day’s events rated PG, in case the gentle reader blushes easily.

January 19th

To start the day we were given specific instructions the night before.  As soon as I woke up about 8:15 am, I found a notepad and wrote for ten minutes.  I showered, paying extra attention to the sensations of my body, being a little extra silly, and shaved thoroughly.  I picked out clothes to be really comfortable – sweatpants and two layers of T-shirts with 3/4 sleeves on one shirt to help stay warm.   Breakfast was also supposed to be extra sensual, but I ran out of time to do that at home, and stopped at 7-11 to get some juice and snacks.  My orange-mango juice spilled above my lips a little, and the filling of my apple pie also slipped the bounds of my mouth, so I got to pay extra attention to these details without music playing.  I savored the different textures in the apple pie; smooth sweet creamy filling in contrast to the slightly crunchy and flaky shell.  The juice was different from my usual plain orange juice, so that got my attention too.

I got to the workshop location at the Pig Iron Theater in Northern Liberties, and chatted with my fellow participants.  The workshop had nine participants, a leader, and an assistant for the leader.  The morning started with each of us in turn describing our experiences from the morning ritual, and how it made us more aware of our bodies and nurturing ourselves.  As each person told their story, another person ‘witnessed’ it, meaning they wrote down the essence of the story (i.e. not  every word, but capturing key phrases and ideas).  Then the witness told their summary of the story.  The purpose of this was to get used to focusing on critical elements and ideas in a story, and setting aside less important fluff or filler.

We paired up with another person, and went through several rounds of writing down what our partner said.  In the first round one person filled in “I am …” for a couple minutes, then we switched roles.  We did that prompt again for the second round, but the third round changed to “I want…” for both people.  After all three rounds, we read back to our partner what we recorded from their ‘I am’ and ‘I want’ statements so they could hear their own thoughts reflected back to them, and vice versa.

During the two-hour lunch break, we were given instructions to create a story based on specific elements from our morning.  We had to incorporate into the story:  something from our morning sharing, 1-3 of our ‘I am’ statements, 1-3 of our ‘I want’ statements, sensory experiences (touch, smell, etc.), and use these four ideas (take a risk, tell the truth, tell a secret, and something sensual).  I walked with some people to the local pizza shop, got that for lunch, and wrote my story.  My story started with describing how to perform a turn in ballet, and went into more personal observations after that.  During lunch I texted a friend, and couldn’t remember if that was ok, but it was work-related (I’m trustee for him, and the text related to that).  After the lunch break we shared our stories with each other.

In the afternoon we built on this foundation of telling very personal stories by writing two letters.  One was us writing to our genitals; the other was our genitals writing a letter to us.  After writing those letters, we put them aside.  A guest artist (Ali Richardson) took over class, and we played with drums and various other percussion instruments for a while, then took a dinner break.  I ate the second half of my pizza.

The last activity of the day was more artistic – given a big sheet of white paper and an assortment of crayons, markers, chalk, glitter glue, and other props, we were tasked with drawing our genitals.  After completing the drawings, we read one of the letters, usually the one to our genitals, with them now represented in front of us larger than life.  That concluded the workshop for the day.

As I drove home, I automatically turned on a music CD, but soon caught myself and shut it off, driving home in awkward silence.  I got two magazines in the mail, and set them aside to read another day.  I got on my computer and checked for work-related emails, skipping listserv messages.  I logged into Blackboard Learn to check on my class there, then went to bed.

A normal day

In contrast, a normal day for me is full of mass media.  During breakfast I watch TV, usually the Today show or something like that.  Whether I’m on a computer at home or at the office, I usually have four tabs open – a news site (news.google.com), my email, Fark, and Facebook.  I check all of those off and on all day.  Often I’ll play music in the background, either iTunes or MP3s on Windows Media Player (Garth Brooks at the moment!).  During the day I might have classes or meetings, those are the rare events that don’t have mass media in them, except pulling stuff off the Internet during some meetings.  Often in the evening I’ll watch videos, either ones I downloaded or ones on YouTube, and/or I’ll watch a little TV at night, which uses cable TV (Verizon) to access a hundred or so channels I mostly ignore.  I have dozens of magazine subscriptions and memberships, so many days I’ll get another magazine or two, and flip through them.  I throw away mailed ads.  I don’t read casually much, most of my reading is textbooks.  I don’t play online games or use chat rooms, and almost never “tweet.”

Assessment of Day Without Media

I didn’t particularly like anything about the day without media, outside of what happened in the workshop.  I usually have TV or music in the background, partly because I like it, but also partly because the silence is deafening otherwise.  I like their accompaniment.  Without media and the workshop, my day would have been quiet and isolated, with no sounds except the ones I made and no news sources.  It wasn’t very difficult to do without media this particular day because I immersed myself in lovely distraction for 12 hours of the day, but otherwise it would have been very difficult because I am so accustomed to having entertainment and information coming in constantly from around the world.  Google News and Fark provide most of my news, with TV mostly providing entertainment, sports (soccer & tennis), and movies.  Facebook provides most of my day-to-day social interaction outside of classes and meetings; dozens of people I see only on Facebook regularly, whereas in person I might see them once in years or even never.  I have dozens of ‘friends’ on Facebook I’ve never met, yet I follow their lives and presumably vice versa.  A day without mass media clearly showed how pervasive and essential it is for my life.

Mass Media test 1 notes

COM 150 Mass Media

Study guide for first test

1/27/13  Glenn Booker

1.  The basic model of human communication has a sender who encodes the message and transmits it in some way.  The receiver of the message decodes it, and is influenced in some way.

2.  The sent and received messages may not match due to noise.   Physical (environmental), social (grammar, accents), cultural (ethnic), or psychological (mental distraction) noise can exist.

3.  Two major ways to overcome noise are through feedback and role-taking.

4.  Mass communication model has senders who are professional communicators, production specialists encode the message, messages are transmitted via a medium to a large and diverse audience who decode it.  The receivers decode it and construct interpretations based on their backgrounds, and are influenced in some way.

5.  Feedback and role taking don’t work well for mass communication because there are few mechanisms for feedback (letter to the editor?) and role-taking isn’t feasible for an audience in the millions.

6.  Marshall McLuhan predicted the global village in the 1960’s.

7.  The Dept of Defense built the Internet, originally ARPAnet, to have a means of large scale communication that would still work after World War III.

8.  The major problems with digital media are that it moves too fast, and privacy and crime are major issues.

9.  Cultural imperialism is when one culture displaces another through its media, products. This is done faster through digital media.

10.  I’m guessing that those in power were not happy with Gutenberg’s printing press at first, because it reduced their power and control over people, but the church made a fortune selling mass printed indulgences, so they later liked the printing press.

11.  The advent of mandatory public education in the 1830’s made reading much more popular!

12.  The key cities for publishing after the Revolution were New York, Boston, and Philly.

13.  Texts are expensive because they have a captive audience, are graphically intensive, use planned obsolescence, and the tenure system mandates frequent publishing.

14.  Seven characteristics of newspapers include:  at least weekly publication, use a mechanical printing press, available to all (for a price), are readable by average literacy, are timely, have news of general interest, and are stable over time.

15.  Peter Zenger wrote for the NY World in 1735, and was charged with seditious libel for writing against the government.  The jury found he wrote the truth, establishing the watchdog function of the press, and a key precedent for freedom of the press.

16.  The newspaper Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick was shut down after one day for being subversive, and not containing approved material.

17.  The Colonial press had old news, was very small (4 pp), published infrequently (when full), expensive, used limited technology presses, and was blatantly partisan.

18.  The Penny Press was the paper for the people, containing human interest stories (gossip), and was supported by ad revenue.

19.  Benjamin Day (NY Sun, 1833) was the first publisher to hire reporters and newsboys/girls, and used ads to keep paper prices low.

20.  Society in the late 1800’s affected the growth of papers because of the increased literacy rate, rapid population growth from immigration, improved printing technology, and social interest in the Civil War.

21.  Yellow Journalism started with the NY World and Joe Pulitzer’s comic of the same name, stolen by Randolph Hearst.  In a battle for readership, ethics went out the window and they started writing blatantly false “sensationalism” stories.  May have caused the Spanish-American War.

22.  The Golden Age of newspapers was circa 1900-1920’s, because they had a large audience and no competition yet from radio or TV or the Internet.

23.  Wire services are news sharing companies, such as AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, etc.

24.  Syndicates share entertainment content, such as comics, Dear Abby, car talk, etc.

25.  About 75% of newspapers today are owned by chains, such as Gannett, Knight-Ridder.

26.  Future buyers of newspapers will be people concerned about local community issues and news, and young people looking for local ads.


Melancholy.  I’m listening to a lot of Adele and Heart and Pat Benatar, all sappy stuff.  I feel off lately, and I can’t figure out what it’s from.  Maybe a little SAD (seasonal affective disorder), that shows up every winter.  Maybe a side effect from a long boring cold for the last two weeks.  Maybe loneliness; I was going to have a cool roomie, and she flaked out on me.

But I think there’s something more fundamental happening.  I have a nagging feeling that something is wrong in my world.  I should be doing something, and I’m not.  I’m doing lots of cool stuff – my job is really good, I’m playing a bunch of soccer, dancing some, making some progress on fixing up my new home.  But my body feels depressed, and that makes me eat a lot of junk.  Which, of course, doesn’t help.

I feel like I’m going through the motions, but my heart isn’t in it.  And if you’ve read the rest of this blog, you know how important that is to me.  Twenty years ago I was around California pagan hippies, and they spoke of right livelihood (Buddhism) and self-actualization (Maslow’s hierarchy).  I was starting the process of finding my body through massage therapy and other forms of bodywork.  I came to the East coast to chase the possibility of a long term relationship.  And over the next few years, my world started slowly collapsing in on itself.  I finally got out of a relationship that had become abusive in every way except physical.

The last five years plus have been devoted to completing school and reinventing myself.  Exploring new possibilities.  Figure skating.  Swimming.  Many forms of dance.  Tennis.  A little acting.  Dabble in piano.  All good and wonderful activities.  But it isn’t enough.  Or the right one.  Do I know the right answer, and I’m just afraid of admitting it?  Or haven’t I found it yet?

I’m truly fortunate to have options to choose from, and not just be scrounging for raw survival.  And yet I can’t help but expect much bigger things from myself.  Is that just thinly veiled ego?  Hubris?