Getting off the fast track





Once while nestled in Moscow hotel bed and flicking idly through the Russian TV channels before trying to sleep I came across the uninterrupted broadcast of a log slowly burning in a fireplace.

It was oddly warming, almost as if it was really crackling away in the room, and completely mesmerising. As a cheering and comforting inducement to drowsiness it was perfect bedtime viewing.

The merits of meditative TV were again demonstrated last week when a continuous three-hour broadcast of a 3000km train trip through the centre of Australia was so surprisingly popular that a longer 17-hour cut of the same journey was shown on Sunday.

SBS’s experiment in showing mostly unadorned footage of the oncoming tracks and rolling scenery during Wednesday’s shorter broadcast of the The Ghan: Australia’s Greatest Train Journey attracted over 400,000 viewers, making it the broadcaster’s highest rating show for the past 12 months.

The delayed but almost ‘real-time’ broadcast of the train trip from Darwin to Adelaide is an example of Slow TV.

It’s a trend that has largely been inspired by Norway’s public television channel which has pioneered marathon broadcasts of footage taken from moving trains and other lengthy depictions of fairly ordinary activities – including knitting and firewood being talked about and then burnt.

While some on social media, and in the regular media, did write off the Ghan slow TV experiment as boring, a number of others commented that it was surprisingly addictive.

Perhaps it was the right month to show it because January in Australia is traditionally the slowest time of the year which many spend in a heat-hazed sonorous summer holiday.

However, it could also be that the appeal of slow TV comes from the contrast it presents to the ever more hurried and harried sense of modern life, defined by the intrusion of constant attention-seeking clamour and the ceaseless and accelerating nature of technology and societal change.

Perhaps slow TV shares something of the sentiment of the psalmist where we are told to “be still and know that I am God”.

For Friday Forum we ask: do we sometimes need to slow down and what is the best way that you find to do that?


Image: Roderick Eime/Flickr

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