Slow Power

Curator's Note

In 2013, Al Jazeera reported on an emerging media tradition in Norway: "A new kind of reality TV show was born, and it goes against the rules of TV engagement. There is no story line, no script, no drama, no climax. And it's called Slow TV." The phenomenon, however, represents something much more than a novel format for television. Through its unique characteristics - slow format, avowing of agency to the audience, and the reverence of culturally specific artifacts - Slow TV represents a counterhegemonic force, which confounds the orthodox blueprint of time, power, and control in the relationship between the media and the public. Furthermore, through the adaptation of Joseph Nye’s Soft Power, it can be argued that Slow TV elicits a type of Slow Power, in which media leaders can cultivate new levels of cohesion and national pride among their audiences. Derived from the long endurance and pace of its content, the nomenclature itself spurs an ontological exploration into the definition of time - the designation of “slow” to describe something that literally unfolds in real time suggests disparity in the way media influences and regulates the mainstream understanding of and relationship to time. And what does Norway’s Slow TV mean for the rest of the world? While it does not damage the standards of Universal Time, it does make a statement. Amidst a growing tendency toward speedup culture, Norway proclaims, “We choose slowness. We celebrate slow.” And while this creates cohesion within the country, it could, inadvertently create distance between those unable to prioritize slowness, due to economic or political circumstances. As this media internationalizes, other countries can harness the formula to increase national unity and redistribute power. With live, highly participatory, all-inclusive media events with culturally resonant themes and motifs (placed in primetime), media leaders can disrupt chronography and evoke Slow Power.


Great post, this is really fascinating! I’m always a bit hesitant to fully embrace the marketing of “slowness” as a counter to “speed-up” culture particularly because I would argue that both terms create a false sense of an embedded and ubiquitous social time that, to me, seems a bit problematic. I think what really interests me here is the possibility of reading this mediated “slow time” as a sort of biopolitical mechanism, essentially a virtual slow vacation that still allows one to stay firmly positioned within his or her particular economically and politically determined temporal space. I can imagine someone working a 12-hour shift, coming home and watching this as a nice refresher to boost his or her spirits for the next grueling shift! Not to mention the massive labor infrastructure that must be undergirding this whole production. How many production technicians and vehicle operators were pulling all-nighters (I might be getting a bit carried away here) to allow for a select audience, who have “expendable” time, to engage in this slow power tourism? Sorry if this comes off as rambling, it’s been a long day ;) Really wonderful post!

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