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Analyzing a class assignment in USA Today

By Kari VanDerVeen
November 5, 2012

"Imagine a world free of Facebook. A world without newspapers, books, text messages, and email. No video games. No television," Brianna Wilson '13 challenges readers of USA Today in an article titled "Silent Nights: 72 Hours Without Media."

Wilson and other members of St. Olaf College's Media in Contemporary Culture class deliberately "unplugged" from the mediated world for three days this fall — and her analysis of their experience became one of the most-read articles in USA Today's College section this weekend.

Students in the class, led by Associate Professor of Theater and Director of Media Studies William Sonnega, first inventoried their media use for 48 hours. Then they gave up everything from email and Internet use to music and pleasurable reading for 72 hours.

"Most of us, I think, are completely unmindful of the extent to which our lives — and I mean all of our lives — rely on media not solely for communication but for entertainment, distraction, sense of self, and a sense of other," Sonnega says.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or