If there was anything that marked my last semester, it was an intense amount of screen-time. Even after 50 hours in the office each week, I spent countless weekends doing homework on my laptop. When I was out, my iPhone almost never left my hand. Screens dominated my waking hours.
Here in Venezia, things couldn’t be more different. Most of the time I have no Wi-Fi or data connection, which means my iPhone almost always stays in my pocket. My laptop only comes out for a couple hours of homework each day. And the crazy thing? I don’t miss it. I don’t yearn for free Wi-Fi when I’m out. I revel in my disconnectedness.
I feel like it’s only fitting that in this mostly screen-less lifestyle, I’ve also spent a lot of time reconnecting to the tangible and hand-made. I spend 6 hours each week drawing and carving in my printmaking class. I’m learning how to use ink and old-style presses. When we set out to redesign a font in my typography class, we reached first for our markers, not our trackpads. And when we learn about the rich history of art in this city, we stand on-site and gaze at the real thing, not an image on a projection screen.
If that’s taught me anything, it’s that a tangible connection makes learning, creating and experiencing a lot more valuable. It makes it all more human. And it makes you really appreciate the digital tools that make everything so “easy.”
But before you write me off as a nostalgic millennial with no sense of reality, let me say that I realize we have digital tools for a reason, and that they’re essential to the pace of life now.
I do think, however, that a lot is gained from even small amounts of (literally) hands-on experience. When was the last time you looked out to the horizon without the urge to post a picture to your snap story? When was the last time you appreciated something that was printed by hand? When was the last time you had an experience that was truly offline?
For me, those experiences happen every day. And I couldn’t be more grateful that I’m in a place that allows me to live this way.
I know when I return to the States in a couple months I’ll be inexorably drawn back into the life of constant connectivity and screen time. But perhaps my memories from Venezia will remind me to unplug every so often, make things with my hands and fully experience what’s in front of me.
Note: Since I deviated from my usual “last week’s summary” blog format this time, I’ve added some photos from my travels below.
I’ll say a little bit about these last pictures: last night we experienced our first major “Acqua Alta” in Venezia! Basically, this is when high-tides pile on to each other and raise the water level, which in turn floods the canals here. The lowest point in the city is Piazza San Marco, so naturally we put on our rain boots and went there as fast as we could to play in the piazza-turned-canal.