What It Means to Be Unplugged

When we decided to explore the concept of “unplugged,” we first had to figure out just what that means.

There’s the literal take: handmade crafters working far from digital tools, musicians playing acoustic guitars for intimate audiences, marketers longing for a weekend retreat away from screens.

But there’s also another side: kids trying to access the internet to complete their homework, people in rural communities trying to apply for jobs, and the millions (tens of millions, in fact) of Americans without reliable internet access at all. Not to mention the impact net neutrality has on everyone.

It felt wrong to ignore either of those sides. Some people disconnect as a result of too much technology, and for good reason. But others are dying just to get access to the future of school, work, and entertainment. They’re not wrong either.

We’re going to look at, speak to, and work with a number of artists, writers, and creative business owners to get their take on what it means to be unplugged. There are a variety of challenges independent artists face - working in solitude, trying to disconnect from devices and distractions, and intentionally making choices that take you away from established circuits and communities, while acknowledging certain privileges in being able to connect (and disconnect).

We need to better understand how technology shapes our lives and work. We need to make sure we understand how to live in a world where being connected is required. We need to determine, together, how we can make it better. And we also need to remember that for every step we take forward with technology, there’s someone who needs a helping hand to not get left behind.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll consider what social media has done to art, look at an off-the-grid creative retreat, talk to musician Tomo Nakayama on what it means to do it yourself, learn about the millions of Americans struggling to access the internet, and more.

As we explore what it means to be unplugged, Big Cartel will be donating to EveryoneOn, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide affordable internet access and devices to communities that otherwise might not be able to connect. EveryoneOn also helps with digital literacy training, including helping kids use their computers for homework, aiding adults on the market for a new job, and making sure people know how to use the internet to stay on top of their health. If you’re able to donate, we believe they’re doing really important work, and we’re thrilled to support them.

Learn more about the work of EveryoneOn:

We’ll update this post with links to essays, interviews, and more as we publish them here on Workshop and you can find them all filed under Unplugged.

Andy Newman

Marketing at Big Cartel, writer, and dad of three. ✨

Make a store & sell your art with Big Cartel. It’s easy.

Sign up