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‘Unplugged’ experiment detaches students from the media

25 October 2010 Bournemouth University

24 hours without media. No internet, no mobiles, no TV... The biggest global media experiment. Ever.

First year students at Bournemouth University (BU) in the UK have been 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’.

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

A pilot study conducted in the US last year revealed some astounding results. BU Lecturer in Communication and Journalism, Dr Roman Gerodimos, who is leading ‘Unplugged’ in the UK, said: “Students reported feeling withdrawal symptoms that were similar to drug or alcohol addiction. 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 are recording their experiences in short, blog-style essays and questionnaires, the results of which are likely to have a considerable impact on the future.

“At an educational level it could benefit our learning and teaching strategies,” Roman explains. “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.”

First year BA (Hons) Multi-Media Journalism student Elliott Day said: “My whole morning routine was thrown up into the air. Despite being aware of the social importance of the media, I was surprised by how empty my life felt without the radio or newspapers.”

Fellow first year Caroline Scott added: “I felt isolated from society without being able to contact friends at the touch of a button. We have all adapted to depend on the media to carry out tasks quickly and find out information on demand.”

Attached files

  • 'Unplugged' students from Bournemouth University - Caroline, Elliot and Charlotte

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