Other examples of anti-technology life-hacks?
November 26, 2006 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to compile a list of life-hacks and such that have a particular anti-technology bent to them.

I hate to bring up the Hipster PDA, I think all the hype it got is kinda silly, but I'm very interested in the notion of highly technology-adept people rejecting electronics in favor of simpler, older methods/materials.

Can anyone help me think of other notable examples of this phenomenon from the life-hack, gtd world? Neo-Hipster-Ludditiesm?

posted by jtajta to Technology (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure quite what you're looking for, but here are some older technologies that I've seen embraced by technology-oriented types:

Fountain pens, particularly very good fountain pens (e.g., Omas, Pelikan, and the like)

Traditional shaving tools
(males only).

Traditional cooking tools (e.g., fine knife instead of food processor, etc.)

Books instead of eBooks.

Vinyl instead of CDs, with amplifiers using tubes (valves) instead of transistors.

Is this the sort of thing you had in mind?
posted by LeisureGuy at 7:15 AM on November 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, that does help.

More specifically, I was thinking about instances where people have replaced a technological tool (say, the PDA) with a *new* invention that is explicitely anti-technology (index cards and clip). The examples above are good, but they seem more like embracing older technology as opposed to inventing something new that has an anti-technology aesthetic...

It's a minor distinction, and, again, this helps alot. Thanks. Any other ideas out there?
posted by jtajta at 7:35 AM on November 26, 2006

Instead of digital photography or even sending your film out to get developed, you could develop with coffee (scientific explanation).
posted by themadjuggler at 7:40 AM on November 26, 2006

- moleskins instead of laptops for taking notes (and people paying $25+ for a paper notebook in the process)

- people taking daily naps instead of drinking coffee and having meetings

- A lot of geeks I know still write letters and postcards
posted by mathowie at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2006

I use the pocketmod frequently.


It is called a personal analog assistant and is useful for jotting down notes and staying organized with a weekly schedule, or daily or however much you want to keep up with things.

Definately worth checking out.

posted by koolkat at 9:13 AM on November 26, 2006

Throw away your watch - everyone else knows the time, these days.

Throw away your phone - if you really need to make a call, you can borrow your friend's.

Throw away your MP3 player - if you really need music, sing to yourself, in your head.

Write shit that you need to remember on the back of your hand.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:57 AM on November 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I use these great little Kokuyo Color n' Color notebooks for my personal tasks list. They are great little notebooks with room in the wirebind for a Bic cheap clicky mechanical pencil, the cover of the noteboook covers the wirebind so it doesn't catch on stuff, lined paper, and a notch at the top for the date. I find it much easier and much more useful than a PDA (which I also carry... to play Solitaire on).

I looked around online and can't really find them, though. Weird, that.
posted by smallerdemon at 10:29 AM on November 26, 2006

I don't know about anti-tech, but a nice minimal-tech trick is keeping a monolithic text file open for whatever has to be jotted down: a code snippet, to-do list, funny quote, etc. The idea is to forgo multiple purpose-specific data organizers for a single file that can be easily searched. (There are dedicated apps that elaborate on this method, such as Notational Velocity for the Mac.)

The first I'd heard of it was in a presentation by Danny O'Brien about the habits of productive geeks (video of this and other Notcon '04 presentations). I've found it works surprisingly well in a structured working situation, but when I'm freelancing, not so much. Now that I've dug up my past notes on it, I'm going to give it another try.

More life hacking thoughts of various tech levels by O'Brien are readily available via Google.
posted by ardgedee at 10:48 AM on November 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I suppose it's just a variant on the hipster PDA, but I use the method shown in this set of photos to make mini notebooks out of a sheet of A4 - handy because I take all my notes standing up and it fits snugly in one hand, you can use it twice over by folding inside out, then store the mini notebooks flattened out in an A4 folder for later reference (which I find quicker than digging through notebooks).

Also, tangentially, since it doesn't involve rejecting electronics, you could see the popularity of text files among geeky people as luddite when compared to using a variety of applications to accomplish the same goals. Eg., see Giles Turnbull's Living in text files and further discussion of the idea of using one big text file for everything.
posted by jack_mo at 11:15 AM on November 26, 2006

Oop, should've previewed.
posted by jack_mo at 11:16 AM on November 26, 2006

Best answer: *new* invention that is explicitely anti-technology (index cards and clip)

Neither of those are anti-technology in any way though, index cards and paper clips both require an industrial economy to manufacture.
Maybe what you are looking for are things that might be classed as appropriate technology, where one technological solution is replaced with one that *seems* more primitive, but is actually much more suitable for the application.

The 'Hipster-pda' is in fact a sterling example, you said that you are most interested in 'primitive' solutions adopted by those who are highly tech-adept. It seems paradoxical, but you could argue that this is the whole point; deeper understanding of both the technological solutions and the problems that they are trying to solve leads to a transcending of the fetishisation of the gadget.

From a design point of view, there are many reasons that index cards are better than a PDA. They are less fragile, unlikely to be stolen, resistant against malfunction, cheaper and above all, easier and quicker to use. It's not so much an expression of Luddism and more a reaction to unthinking adoption of the new and the expensive.
posted by atrazine at 11:19 AM on November 26, 2006

My life definitely improved when I swapped my TV for a fishtank.

Now that it's cricket season again in Australia, there really is precious little difference, and the fishtank uses less electricity.
posted by flabdablet at 10:39 PM on November 26, 2006

inventing something new that has an anti-technology aesthetic...

Along the lines of what atrazine said.. Are you sure this is what you are looking for?

I still have a black dial phone on my desk - I like the bell - but anti-technology aesthetic? That sounds.. Frivolous.
posted by Chuckles at 12:02 AM on November 27, 2006

A common thing is advanced single-use devices getting trumped by a larger number of simpler devices. Cell-phone-mp3-player-pda-gps devices lose out to a dedicated mp3 device, dedicated cell phone, etc. because generally, the simpler device is better at the job, if only by virtue of not needing as complex an interface.

People storing their digital photos the old way as prints (and/or backups) in a shoebox, instead of just on their computer.

One from my own life - I prefer a map and compass to a GPS, simply because it forces me to do some thinking to work out where I am, which creates an awareness of the terrain and my location that has a bunch of downstream benefits.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:50 AM on November 27, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the great response. Chuckles, yes, I think much of it is frivolous; I by no means am advocating an anti-technology aesthetic for the sake of it. But I am trying to wrap my head around the thesis that there might be a move towards 'primitive' technology (or lack of technology (as in electronics) entirely) by those who are at the very edge of emerging innovations.
posted by jtajta at 2:04 PM on November 27, 2006

Not quite what you're asking, but bulky old-style handsets for modern tiny cellphones. I don't have one, but I do plan to make one, since I prefer to know that the mic and earpiece are where the best reception is, than to have faith that a phone can hear me well with the mic out by my ear, etc. They also come in bluetooth now.

The nixie-tube clocks are another retro technology that is geek chic, but I don't think there is much to that of interest to you - it seems to just be a nostalgia retro-is-cool fad, rather than a case of the older tech being better.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:53 PM on November 27, 2006

I think I know where you're coming from. I've been smothered in the tech world since a pretty early age, and now I'm just starting to get out and embrace other aspects of life. I've been reading Lifehacker.com for a few years and it's a pretty good source of regular tips about ways to make technology (and anti-technology) work to your benefit.

I like things that showcase a certain kind of practical craftsmanship that precludes digital technology. I've been into music boxes and other things that work effectively but use only simple materials. I guess I want to see if I can get by without feeling like I'm taking an active part in killing the planet.

The coolest thing I've come upon lately is a coarse sponge on a handle that is filled with dishwashing liquid for automatic dispensing. It saves me loads of time, especially now that I'm in England and automatic dishwashers are a bit scarce. Not earth-shattering, but damn practical.
posted by almostpositive at 5:00 PM on November 27, 2006

An old classic is the death of the digital watch. Digital watches were The Next Big Thing 20 years ago. Today, you can hardly find them. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:56 AM on November 28, 2006

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