Inga Külmoja is the editor of this blog and works at the University of Tartu as a Senior Specialist for International Communication.
Saialill, my favourite bakery in Tartu, reopened from summer vacation a few days ago. Good news, right? Kind of, but I admit having mixed feelings about it. Luckily, Tartu Jazz Club, UT Student Council, and many others still keep their doors closed. When they all reopen, summer will slip through my fingers, and life will become business as usual.
Some say that July in Estonia is a ‘dead month’: nothing really happens, everyone is on vacation, and newspapers have a hard time inventing news. That’s when boredom takes over, cities become abandoned, and days feel too long to end.
For me, July is the month of deceleration par excellence.
When summer is over, ‘business as usual’ will pick up speed, with greater volumes of data being produced, gathered, and transmitted faster than ever before. You will eat your fast food, buy your quick fashion, get your mass education, and share all of this on the go with your numerous friends and followers (the more the merrier, who cares that you barely know most of them). Before you even notice, you will be tricked into buying more stuff, a newer car, a bigger home, and can easily find yourself deep in debt — usually not without the ‘help’ of fast loans.
So it helps to keep in mind the values and lifestyles that counter the superficial flow and oftentimes pointless speed of the mainstream.
s l o w f o o d
Some people spend lots of their precious time going to the farmers’ market and cooking their meals fresh at home (the craziest even go mushrooming or berry picking, which is quite common in Estonia). Others are ready to drive long hours for a dinner or even a piece of cake in the middle of nowhere (well, that’s not always affordable). Still others invite their friends over to cook new recipes and enjoy food together. All of this may sound strange, but is worth trying out.
r e c y c l i n g & u p c y c l i n g
Large-scale recycling and second-hand culture can potentially slow down production cycles as the need for new batches of products diminishes. An old piece of something, unless produced very cheaply to last a short period, can gain added value in a new context or combination. While ‘upcycle design’ brands like Estonian Reet Aus aren’t always cheap, the idea of repurposing used items in creative and meaningful ways is a call to action at no — or low — cost. As you follow some of the plentiful do-it-yourself instructions on the web, your dependency on trendy seasonal collections is likely to diminish.
c o n t e n t c u r a t i o n
This sounds specific, but most of us curate content through sharing links, photos and other stuff on social media. Our media consumption depends more and more on what our network shares. As a person who works with institutional content, I try to keep in mind that there are loads of content created by our community — some of it is really great and even awesome. Sometimes all you need is to highlight this awesomeness and share it with your audience. Collecting and (re)organising the existing stuff (be it content, clothes, furniture, or art) can be at least as valuable as creating something from scratch. Storify and Pinterest are great tools to curate and ‘upcycle’ online content.
'n o' t o f r i c t i o n l e s s s h a r i n g
Estonians are duly blamed for being stubbornly uncommunicative and ignoring small talk altogether. A typical Estonian has been rightly compared to a grumpy, anti-social hedgehog, yet in our world of ‘frictionless sharing’ there is an unarguable value in speaking up only when you have something valuable to deliver. Before posting another Instagram of my last meal, albeit ‘slow’, on Facebook, I try to remember not to speak when it does not improve on silence (I picked this up from Nokia’s corporate ‘Tone of Voice’ — yes, Finns are also known to be famous communicators — but unfortunately this valuable piece of advice has been removed from public access).
s t o p e x c e s s i v e c o n f e r e n c i n g
Ideally, a conference is a place where you meet new people and ideas, and get inspired. In reality, many conferences are not that high quality (I am not speaking about TED here) and, if you get an overdose — which is easy with the abundance of all sorts of seminars, workshops, think-tanks, camps, roundtables and what not — they can disorientate you. After excessive strategic planning, case studying, and networking, you may as well forget what your real job is, i.e. what you get paid for. I try to convince myself to go only when there is real value in it, be it new knowledge, inspiration, or contacts. Really, stop talking and start doing (as a bonus, there will be more time for other things). This 30-second ad for IBM tells it all:
So, deceleration is not just about speed, but also about quantity and quality. The more hours you put in, the better the outcome (up to a point, of course). The better the outcome, the longer it lasts. Producing more cheap stuff fast is a gimmick. Less is more.
While July lasts… Unlike the famous Werner, Saialill is located in the outskirts of Tartu, and you don’t get there by accident. Usually there is no time for it, unless you suddenly realise that their croissants or macaroons will save your day (if not life), and go for them. Allowing yourself this unjustified amount of time feels luxurious.
Hmm… Should we close this blog for July?
Disclaimer: The author has no financial interest and has received no benefits from the businesses mentioned in this post.