Technology in the Woods
I was at an online seminar and talk given by Theodora Sutton - who if you haven't read anything by her or looked at her stuff you should definitely check her out. This day she was talking about her research into Camp Grounded, the digital detox movement and the irony of a group of people who worked in tech but then were escaping to the woods to once again eschew technology. There were moments when she talked about her experiences at the camp that gave me flashbacks to youth retreats as a kid in church. You would stay up late, have overwhelming experiences, and basically go out of body to the point of exhaustion where you would agree to almost anything (in my case it was a baptism - in the case of camp grounded, it was more of a promise to give up your iPhone). Her research is really incredible and I am still going through some of it because now I need to know ALL ABOUT IT. In the Q&A afterwards we talked a little about the privilege of being able to escape technology and go into the forest. To give it all up and experience nature. In her research the people in the camp were mostly white, almost all able bodied and sometimes skewed towards some racial diversity since it was the Bay Area ... but not much. I said in my Q&A that looking at this was a nightmare to me - on the one hand I love going out in the woods and exploring but I can't imagine someone stripping me of my technology and forcing me to hug others, to do physically demanding activities and then have no way to escape other than with my own body -- one that isn't particularly trustworthy. These experiences, as created, are indeed following that social model of disability - that they are created for people with able bodies - they aren't meant for people like me. Escaping in the woods for these people wasn't a privilege it became something they felt they were entitled to do and they needed to do because the demands of daily life were so overwhelming that they had to get out. The irony of it *to me* was that they all work in tech - they were ones that created the overwhelming technology, they created the problem that they were escaping - that they had the money, the time, the bodies to escape. Meanwhile - the problem they made was left behind for everyone else with no means to deal with and suffer in.
There's also a part of it where they use so many native elements without any acknowledgement of the appropriation -- they give each other names, they are a "tribe", they sit around fires in white gowns and sage their yurts ... there's something exclusive and toxic about it. The idea that you too can pay money to go into the forest and pretend to be a native person, but only if you've got the ability and all for the low low price of forgetting for just a moment that you helped create the problem. Hm. There's also research done into how native and indigenous people cared for disabled people in their tribe, or the elderly, - how they weren't a burden, but were included and cherished. It's interesting that this movement of appropriation also picks and chooses what they appropriate from the culture - that they want to pick the parts that sound interesting or spiritual and active but these other parts that would involve work or inclusive structure are left behind. I want to be clear that Camp Grounded isn't a product of Sutton - but rather just a subject of her research and a very interesting subject which is why I'm still thinking about it and its implications days later. I actually remember when Camp Grounded was in its hay day and I was curious about going - about the idea of doing this activity because it could be a new way to do events, to structure co-learning ... but I'm glad I never went, I don't think I would have survived for one, and two I don't think I would have gotten anything out of it.
Which is a great point and I think where I'll end things. When we create events ... what is it that we want people to get out of them? Is it the content, the experience, the aesthetic? And when we attend events ... what is it that sticks with us long after the event is over?