Norway has positioned itself as the leader in the “Slow TV” movement. I’m not sure it’s a movement, actually. Norway is really the only place I know of that this is going on (C-SPAN and golf aside). Slow TV is live coverage of a slow paced event, like a GoPro strapped to a sloth’s head as it goes about its daily business, or grass growing. Shows have been dedicated to topics such as National Wood Night (a four hour discussion on chopping and stacking wood, followed by eight hours of a live fireplace), National Knitting Night (12 hours of knitting), Piip-show (14 hours of birds at a coffee shop) Saltstraumen (12 hours of a tidal current), and Bergensbanen (a seven hour train journey from Bergen to Oslo). Believe it or not, National Wood Night ignited a bit of debate in Norway, with the country apparently divided over the correct way to stack wood.
For the next Slow TV thriller, my money was on a live broadcast of a pot of cold water being brought to boil or perhaps paint drying. I was wrong. The latest to come from Norway’s Slow TV is what I’m sure was a riveting 32 hour live stream reading of the Terms and Conditions of some of the most popular smartphone apps. That’s right, that thing you click past saying you have read and agreed to the terms when you actually didn’t. 33 of them. It’s actually pretty impressive that it was only a 32 hour event considering they made it through the Terms and Conditions of 33 applications. Apparently the Norwegian Consumer Council chose 33 because it is the average number of applications a Norwegian has on their phone. A few years ago the common estimate was 76 eight hour work days to read the Privacy of Policies of every website an average internet user would come across in a given year. The longest policy the team of readers came across during the broadcast was 54 pages and took 2.5 hours to read.
The thought behind the event was to highlight the gargantuan task of keeping yourself informed of what you are agreeing to in a digital world and prod some of the companies into creating more user friendly versions. The Norwegian Consumer Council has taken exception with Tinder’s terms granting it a perpetual, irrevocable license to user-generated content. Every now and then there is a wave of fear that goes around about Facebook owning your photos. These are real issues, particularly given the ubiquity of apps.
I’m thinking the Slow TV concept was something of a reaction to the constant connectivity of modern life. Most of topics are nature inspired (train and boat trips), repetitive and soothing (knitting and a fire crackling), or lectures about history (when there was no smartphone). By bringing in the Terms and Conditions of smartphone apps, the Norwegian Consumer Council seems to have breached an unspoken norm in Slow TV. In reality though, the juxtaposition is brilliant and serves to further highlight (or mock) the complexity of and length of some of the documents. Using the key concept of Slow TV (long time periods and slow progression), the Consumer Council contrasts the modern speed and convenience provided by some of these apps with the painful experience of wading through the legalese just below the service. This is really brilliant marketing for their overall campaign to reign in Terms and Conditions.