What comes after burnout? The concept behind the new magazine Päng! is to create a space filled with stories and images where we can take shelter from the dominating influence of technology in our everyday lives. Themed "Playing Outside Again at Last", the first issue comes out right on time for the advent of spring.
A new magazine hit the market on April 4, 2012 called Päng! – No Substitute for Reality; its raison d'être outlined in an editorial: "Time to reflect. Time to explore. Time for a new magazine." Themed "Playing Outside Again at Last", the first issue comes out right on time for the advent of spring. Priced at 6 euros, this quarterly publication is geared toward a demographic of 20-35-year-olds "who value individuality and authenticity." Päng! makes a clear statement that people need to go back to enjoying their free time in a real and authentic fashion, away from the TV and computer screens that surround us everywhere. The concept is to create a space filled with stories and images where we can take shelter from the dominating influence of technology in our everyday lives. Editor Josephine Götz and art director Cathrin Gehle agree: "The more technology takes over our daily lives, the more we long for authentic experiences. Just put on your jacket, go out and see who you'll run into and what might happen." The creators are interested in playful, childlike experiences – as in "a new magazine about dreams, games and ideas", as in "big adventures" – and see a little bit of characters like Huckleberry Finn and Ronia the Robber's Daughter in themselves.
Päng! is organized into three main sections called 'chapters', entitled The Wild Life, Do It Yourself and Everything But Art. And there are columns like Päng! Project, Päng! Trip and Päng! Workshop! Chapter one presents people with special passions, talents, or ideas through interviews, reports and stories, with an exclusive focus on unfamiliar faces. Cleverly, in the chapters entitled Do It Yourself and Everything But Art the creators present lots of 'offline' content and activities that are increasingly being searched for on the internet, things like sewing, building tree houses, baking bread etc., and questions like what to do when you have back pain or a cold. These are topics that other new magazines at newsstands are addressing, replete with sales-boosting giveaways like baking pans or yarn. The makers of Päng! deliberately emphasize its quality as a print magazine, for example by using uncoated paper and featuring cutout/foldout craft pages. The magazine's claim to originality may be questioned at times however, with features like "On Male Phenotypes and Berlin S&M Clubs" and "Ten Songs for Playing Outside" with performers like The Knife, Oasis and Cat Stevens.
Does Päng! magazine's content mix, reductionist layout and coarse-grained visual aesthetic express an emerging longing for simplicity, as idealistically argued in the editorial? Nik Afanasyev of the newspaper Tagesspiegel has wondered as well: "Is this new magazine all about nostalgia for things like the hippie scene of the 1970s, the nihilism of the 1980s, or the hedonism of the 1990s?"
Afanasyev sees Päng! as a "feel-good rag for stressed-out college kids", and an "appeal to hipsters to find a new balance between DIY and ‘have it done to you’" – in other words, an identity compromise between ideas of self-construction and societal construction.
This criticism aside however, Päng! does pick up on people's need to reflect and slow down the pace of life. It seems to represent a response to the media's fixation on burnout last year, the exponential growth of information on the internet and the constant challenges posed by day-to-day life being infused with the requirement of flexibility. Päng! is thus related to playful "lifestyle journalism" magazines like Hohe Luft and Philosophy Magazine, that are about finding a point of orientation and regaining an inner strength anchored in everyday life. Päng! magazine is thus not alone in addressing questions of naturalness, simplicity, and 'authentic' experience.
Wandering, for example, a magazine devoted exclusively to hiking, is conceptually more rigorous and avant-garde, documenting conversations about hiking and appealing to the today's generation of 30-year-olds. The magazine's editors ask hiking lovers at home and abroad to contribute their perspectives on the topic. While varied in format, the basic message is that hiking represents our last means of escape.
The world of nature, now a mainstream topic, is guaranteed to move product on Germany's magazine racks (at least while good weather holds), despite uncool elitist and/or provincial tendencies associated with the word 'Land' in German, along the lines of nature-loving 'country lifestyles'. According to the latest IVW statistics, Landlust is the most popular magazine, Mein schönes Land (Burda) holds the number-four spot, and Land Idee comes in at number six in the rankings.
Urban life and technology remain juxtaposed against nature and 'authenticity', like the urban gardening movement that sprung up as a response to industrial mining – one always appears to be in reaction to the other. So after burnout comes herb gardening. Some attempts at reconciliation are seen in the somewhat droll-sounding ideas of "guerrilla gardening" and "guerilla knitting", as well as the organizing of nature festivals like one in the Ruhr Valley area that promises "a holistic perspective on nature and people living in urban environment".
These are all "back to nature"-type phenomena, which used to be in opposition to the negatively perceived effects of technology and civilization. The new twist today comes in the slogan "no substitute for reality." Jaded city dwellers have forever been fascinated by country life, but today's urbanites feel an additional need to trade in their monitor-gazing for a bit of reality. One's 'Second Life' thus turns out to be of secondary importance.
image © Päng