24/7 Time and Temporality in the Network Society
Real time, cyber time, machine time, clock time, chronos time, frankentime, mythic time, objective time, natural time, subjective time, present time, timeless time, being time, bullet time, internet time, chronoscopic time, global standard time, local time…are you still there? 24/7, Time and Temporality in The Network Society (Robert Hassan and Ronald E. Purser, Stanford Business Books 2007), is a lovely thought provoking anthology about refllections on time and space in the networked society.
This work moves easily across diverse ranges of subjects, from the philosophical, mathematical, cultural, and political to personal, zenbuddhistic and social, with references to – among others – Castells, Baudrillard, Brian Eno, Dynasty, the Matrix, Bourdieu, Manovich, Borges and off course a lot of Paul Virillio.
Like Bill Spinhoven’s Time Stretcher, developed in 1988, which visualizes the impact of time on space while blurring your vision along the way, this book tries to stretch your mind in all its different directions. The general division can be made along the bias of the technological and the personal. On one side it handles the impact of repercussions of the rate of change in rapidly accelerating modern life and its influences on modern society. On the other hand it researches the mathematical background of technological functions as for example the Viterbi Algorithm.
In this world where DJspooky fits very well in the same sentence with Derrida, 13 leading theorists of the new shift in dimensional thought, shed their light from their own point of view on the subject. While reading, my own sense of time was manipulated similar to the subject of the book: Time can flex, stretch, adjust: Sometimes it reads like an exciting film (time flies) and sometimes it is abstract as a mathematical formula where time almost freezes while you are trying to comprehend the consequences of that what has to be deciphered.
One of the interesting things mentioned is the obvious paradox: While the acceleration spreads by reducing the time necessary for communication, transport, production, the feeling of a lack of time increases. The process of social acceleration has swallowed up time saved by technology. The way things used to have their own time and place seems now to be definite ancient history. Pressure from the outside world is increasing on individual performance.
For example, as I write this piece, multitasking is unavoidable. At this beautiful Sunday afternoon, replying to skype messages from my colleague, updating the blog for my students, consulting a friend on my grammar, answering questions of my 3 year old while meanwhile my mind is working on this piece, I’m feeling a perfect example of modern times: very productive but slightly stressed…
In the networked society, the outside world has penetrated our private sphere. I would not want to have it any other way. I love being online, connected, in touch with all the knowledge that I desire or need. But I agree there is a downside to this (ask the beloved living with me). It’s like David R. Loy tells how Douglas Wonk described his mac-and-netscape as his personal Aleph out of the story’s of Borges, as the portal through which one can see every point in the universe. Borges’s narrator emphasizes the augmented ‘unbounded moment’ in which the Aleph revealed millions of acts while Paul Virilio laments how telepresence technologies are degrading our relationship with the world into a sedentary forgetfulness that flattens our depth of field.
One of the other consequences of the online world is the 24/7 availability of big international companies where its workers on different continents employed in shifts so the work never stops. One side of the world is going home, while the other side just starts up. The transfer takes place between dinner and coffee…What does this do to our sense of leisure time? One sympathetic thought in this is the notion of instead wishing for a global time, we need to be much more aware of local time. We need to realize when someone is just waking up, or just winding down for bedtime when communicating with them. Swatch should not have developed a watch with internet time, but better made a watch whitch toggles easily between different time zones.
If we look at free time from a religious point of view, we get a perspective of the holy grail of making money: the church had for example its reasons to make Sunday a rest day. It became an official moment in time where you ‘could not do a thing’. Probably very good for your health. Nowadays, church regulations are for the most of us long gone, we have to implement these kind of rules ourselves. And as if this is not difficult enough, we are being attacked by this penetrating outside world, from other time zones and with other goals.
This living in parallel times and while staying in touch with the ‘real time’ is something which is compared in the book with the Buddhistic idea of the here and now. Their disciples do not sorrow over the past, nor do they hanker for the future. They maintain themselves with what is present. We might need this more than we know, which brings me to another remarkable example of time discussed here, namely the well know bullet time of the Wachowski brothers’ film The Matrix(1999). Here the controlling of time is literally a live safer.
Time is in this case taken from a visual point of view where the characters in the film can manipulate time the way the viewer can manipulate time in a DVD environment: Neo can freeze the time while dodging the enemy’s bullets. Meanwhile the whole film seems to serve as an example of the philosophy of Deleuze’s vision on the time-image (Deleuze 1989). Bullet time is by the way momentarily available as an online plug-in J
As I mentioned in the beginning, the range of subjects in this book is quite wide, and the subjects beg for further contemplation. They make me wish, I had more time on my hands. I’m thinking of a deserted island with a palm tree, with off course an online connection, to explore in the different kinds of time and try to come to an understanding to this new and changing world.
Despite these philosophical thoughts it seems to me that the most intriguing part of our online existence is the possibility, despite all the ‘virtual aspects’ to influence real life. While sitting behind their laptops, people from all over the world are making things happen: Contributing to the information society, sharing information, organizing protests against authorities, making deals and appointments, trading stock, falling in love, finding new jobs, verifying information and so on and so on.
Personally I cannot imagine anymore, how it used to be, to live without a mobile phone, answering machine or ATM cash withdrawal. I cannot imagine anymore how to life my life offline. Is this a problem? I’m not sure…This book helps to (re)consider this, with the unbearable lightness of real-time living and ‘das leiden des jungen bloggers’, quoting Geert Lovink.
All together, I just wished, I had more time, any time.