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A technology-free music festival is a terrible idea

A technology-free music festival is a terrible idea


What is 'traditional electricity' anyway?

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Innocent Un-plugged, a music festival "for grown-ups" run by British smoothie makers Innocent (now owned by Coca-Cola), is attempting to differentiate itself from hundreds of other festivals with one key conceit — it's offering a "weekend off the grid" with "no Wi-Fi, no 3G," and "no traditional electricity."

So, exactly the same as every other British music festival, then. They all become impromptu Wi-Fi-free zones anyway because:

  1. They take place in fields, and fields, by design, are usually far from networking equipment,
  2. The charging tent is packed with men in tweed flat caps called Jeremy, women with devastatingly pungent dreadlocks, people daubed in a chunky mixture of neon body paint and vomit, and that one guy with a pink mohawk and a neck tattoo swaying angrily at anyone who looks his way. They are not places you want to spend much time.

Un-plugged is trying to offer something different to larger music festivals — there's food served on a plate in some of the pictures, rather than on a stick — but it's not clear exactly what that is. What is "traditional electricity," and what will Un-plugged attendees get instead? Hand-crafted artisanal electricity harvested directly from beard static? Generators powered by clapping and ukeleles?

Will enforcers smash smartphones if they find people online?

Logistically, of course, it's impossible. To totally distance a festival from the internet you'd have to have it in a place like the Scottish Highlands, or Svalbard, or on the Moon. Un-plugged takes place in Kent, the next county over from London. Short of dropping a vast lead dome over a significant portion of the British countryside, there's no way to stop trickles of 3G signal from infiltrating the venue. If the festival is serious about its mission, it'll be forced to employ roving gangs of Innocent enforcers to find and smash smartphones, relying on networks of snitches and informants to reveal when their loved ones have snuck off to check Instagram in exchange for another smoothie.

Why are brands trying to get us to disconnect from the grid, anyway? Are they going to wait until we've all gone to the forest, then repossess our houses, turning them into Bates murder motels? Or are they just trying to make us feel bad? There's a weirdly paternalistic tone to this kind of advertising, as if spending time on the internet is sinful compared to the pleasures of sleeping in a yurt when you've got a perfectly good bed at home and weathering the UK's many delightful summer rainstorms.

The internet is better than Mr. Motivator

Is seeing Mr. Motivator, famous for wearing lycra on morning TV during the 1990's, really a better use of your time than browsing through the entire sum of human knowledge on a functionally magic device that fits in your pocket? After three days of camping top-to-tail, when you're sick of the sight of each other, is talking to your friends and family without distraction that tempting a prospect? Is obeying a Coca-Cola-mandated order to lock yourself away from the joy and pain of our entire planet that laudable a goal?

I've been off the grid at too many festivals, thanks. Plug me back in.