The New Forest ‘tech creche’ says a lot about modern life

Are your eyeballs, or the eyeballs of your family, constantly glued to a screen? Do your fingers have more contact with your digital devices than they do with, well, anything? You, like many other people in the clutches of the digital age, may be a tech addict. But the New Forest, in southern England, has a solution: the Tech Creche.

The Tech Creche is a place where you and your family can surrender your digital devices and car keys, and skip off for a tech-free family day in the New Forest National Park. Enjoy activities from days of old – like chatting, making eye contact, and not Googling things you wonder about (instead of saying, “I guess we’ll never know!” you can say “We’ll Google it later, just look at the damn birds.”)

You might think you could create your own tech creche by leaving all your devices at home when you go out for a day with the family. But many of us just can’t, and only use the off switch when it loses signal and needs the trusty off-and-on-again treatment.

People’s inability to turn off their devices is giving rise to ventures like the OFF Pocket, a phone case that blocks wireless signals. It’s marketed as a counter-surveillance tool, but also “an easy way to disconnect”. You know what else is an easy way to disconnect? Turning off the phone. It takes two seconds – far fewer seconds than it takes to order and wait for delivery.

Or why not lock yourself in a room without signal, along the lines of the baby-on-the-ceiling detox scene in Trainspotting? Canadian artist Julien F Thomas teamed up with an architecture firm in Vancouver to create the Faraday Cafe. It’s basically a Faraday cage: the cafe’s walls block all electromagnetic radiation, effectively turning your smartphone into nothing more than an expensive MP3 player. If your tech addiction has such a grip that you need to hole up in a box for a break, surely you’ll snap, order your coffee to go, and leg it back to signilisation (yes, that is the word “signal” merged with “civilisation”, because tech addiction).

The underlying fear that technology hogs too much of our attention has led businesses to repackage off switches, airplane mode and the idea of leaving devices at home and sell them all back to us. They’ve rebranded the forest as a place for your digital detox, a phone case as a way to escape being “found”, and a cafe as a place where you’d be a master conversationalist and world-class poet if only you could just ditch the device. – By Erica Buist © Guardian News and Media 2014

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