The participants in the experiment #BezSieci (#NoNet), which started on Monday and finishes on Sunday, are six academics from the Department of Media, Journalism and Social Communication of the University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow and 115 students from various fields, including cosmetology, computer science, logistics, economics, management, graphic design and journalism. They are first and last year students.
The experiment leader Dr. Barbara Przywara explained that the age of the participants was an important factor - older people may still remember the times when people more often used traditional media such as television, radio or the press.
"We want to see how this challenge will affect our productivity, but also our personal lives. Perhaps it will turn out that the Internet, which allows us to quickly deal with many things, ultimately too often distracts us, overwhelms us with unnecessary information and controls us, our lives, our time, relationships with people" - said Przywara.
During the seven days of the project the participants must completely eliminate the use of the Internet from their private life, and at work they will limit the use of the web as much as possible; in justified cases they may use e-mail, but for limited time and at designated hours; the reason is that electronic communication dominates at the university.
According to the experiment leader, the main reason are contacts with university staff who are not taking part in the experiment, because they will continue to communicate by email.
During the remaining time, the project participants will have to rely on telephone or personal contact. All text files will be transferred on memory sticks, and the search and verification of information will be performed using traditional methods: in newspapers, books, encyclopaedia.
Participants in the project will record their observations resulting from disconnection from the network. They can describe their emotions, behaviours, reactions, difficulties, but also benefits.
"We want to verify the hypothesis of mass Internet addiction, the plague of the 21st century. We sometimes downplay this problem, claiming that after they all can not be addicted. We, however, do not assume that we are free from that" - said Przywara.
She added that since researchers are also part of the experiment, they will be able to better understand the emotions and feelings of the other participants.
In addition, they will check whether in absence of access to the network the interest in traditional media will increase, whether the participants will more often listen to the radio, watch television, read newspapers to check weather forecasts or get information from the country and the world.
Preparing for the "cut-off" from the Internet, the participants have printed a variety of articles, which they normally access online, bus timetables, rented books from the library, students also collected various non-networked games, stockpiled favourite movies and TV series, "to have something to do for a week". As they themselves assessed, the last days reminded them of "preparations for the coming disaster".
Przywara admitted that as part of the pilot study conducted a few months ago, one of the students noticed that for the first time in a long while she had taken a bath without taking her smartphone to the bathroom.
The results of the university experiment will be consulted with psychologists and therapists, and conclusions will be published. This is the second stage of the study. The first was a weekly observation of media habits, not limited to the Internet.
The inspiration for the experiment was the book The Winter of Our Disconnect. The author Susan Maushart described her experience with radical disconnect of herself and her three teenage children from all media.
Organizers of the experimental at the university are planning to expand the study to other age groups in the near future - first to high school students and later to senior citizens. Intensive interviews with participants are also planned after the experiment is completed, as well as observations associated with re-connecting to the network. (PAP)
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