Digital Sabbath and the Digital Distraction

Dr Julia Morris (Edith Cowan University), Dr Lisa Paris (Curtin University), Dr Annette Nykiel (Edith Cowan University)
2018 Conference

Upheavals in social media and communications are overturning education, at the same time, a group of art education graduates and their artist lecturers are using creative research to disrupt this turn by visualising the practice of Digital Sabbath. The Digital Sabbath practice aimed to explore the feasibility of switching off from technology and the impact of this practice on the participants, and those around them.

The Digital Sabbath and Digital Distraction exhibition results from a creative arts research project involving graduate art teachers and art education lecturers who communicate well visually. The project followed the experiences of nine participants (including the researchers) as they gave up access to digital technologies for a day a week over a three-month period, a practice known as Digital Sabbath (DS).

The participants’ narratives (artefacts, journals and interviews) formed the stimulus for visualisations of the Digital Sabbath experience after a pre-intervention survey. Each researcher developed a series of works with participants, documenting the nature of their experiences and affective responses to the process. The researchers are creating a large collaborative piece that documents general themes from the project experience. The artworks produced for this research aim to communicate the findings of the research with a broader audience, and to incite discussion around our use of technology and its effect on our lives.

For many participants, the practice was incredibly difficult and small interactions with technology were often discussed as ‘necessary’. Most participants discussed their use of technology, and in particular social media, as an addiction.

Download Full text PDF (602.65 KB)

About the author

Julia Morris is a Senior Lecturer at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Her research primarily addresses issues of engagement, both students’ engagement with learning and teachers’ engagement with the profession. She promotes the use of research data as evidence to highlight how changes to teacher practices and the learning environment influence students’ cognitive and affective engagement. She also coordinates the Teacher as Practitioner project in WA, a project that explores the effect of maintaining a personal arts practice on teacher retention.


Lisa Paris is the Academic Lead for the Professional Learning Hub at Curtin University, as well as Senior Lecturer (Arts Education Coordinator), School of Education. She spent 20 years as a visual arts teacher and Head of Learning Area and is a past President of the Art Education Association WA, won the ECU Vice Chancellor’s Award for ‘Programs that Enhance Post-Graduate Education’ in 2008 and was a joint recipient of a $179,000 Australia Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant in 2011. Her research interests encompass pre-service arts teacher education, mentoring of beginning arts teachers, and arts as inclusion for vulnerable populations.


Annette Nykiel PhD is a socially engaged bricoleuse, maker, and practice-led researcher, wondering about questions of the Country. She is interested in raising the awareness of the value and importance of relating to the materiality of non-urban spaces. Annette wanders urban and regional/remote areas in a variety of roles as a geoscientist, artsworker, maker and workshop facilitator. For many years she has exhibited and offered curatorial support in a many different spaces in WA and regional Australia and internationally. Her work is held in the John Curtin Gallery, Artspace Mackay and private collections in Australia and overseas.