(Accelerated) World at Work

By: Jan Bajec
On: November 2, 2009
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About Jan Bajec
Visual thinking has always been the way I responded to my environment. It engaged my interest in arts and eventually led to my enrollment in Visual Arts and Graphic Design studies. From 2001-2002, I had an unique opportunity to be a part of a creative team at S Team Advertising in Belgrade associated with SAATCHI&SAATCHI. From 2002-2003, I worked as a Graphic Designer at Ovation – BBDO. In 2003, wanting to pursue my studies further and get away from advertising I enrolled in Design Art program at Concordia University in Montreal. After graduation I decided to stay in Montreal and work as a full-time freelance graphic designer and web design consultant. I favor an exploratory, investigative approach to design. As I have been in the situation to design for specific cultural environments, I have felt how much of a social construction design really is and how cultural values, tools and technologies specific to each social milieu are reflected in it. This kind of experience demanded broader research ‘routine’ and triggered my interest in many other subjects: sociology, psychology, pop-culture, television, politics, new media. As I was switching my area of interest from print to web design I became more involved in this new platform for visual communication…


The Accelerated Living was a theme of the 20th edition of the Impakt Festival (Utrecht 2009) that was focused on changing notions of time. It explored the ways in which we experience time and speed, and the ways in which this experience is affected by social and technological developments.

Paul Virilio says that the speed at which something happens may change its essential nature. With globalisation and developments in communication technology we accepted (created) new temporal dynamics that highlight speed and connectivity. There is now a complex web of rhythms and cycles that create our ‘temporal sphere’. Progress is no longer conceivable as liner. Both time and space, have acquired circular and cyclical connotations. Henri Bergson uses the term duration to describe time as it is actually experienced – not moment to moment but as a continuous flow in which past, present and future are not truly distinguishable. Bergson holds duration as an ever-changing and heterogeneous phenomenon that cannot be cut up into instants.

While the Impakt festival this year focused on accelerated living, Impakt Online was searching for the slow Web. The Web needs to be slowed down so its features can be rediscovered. There were four projects presented within “The Slow Web”: the IP Browser, a project by Alex Galloway and the Govcom.org Foundation, presented by Richard Rogers; A Tag’s Life which depicts the life of tags by visualizing the rise and fall of tags at the photo sharing platform Flickr, presented by Daan Odijk; World At Work, a real-time world clock showing the worldwide distribution of workforce, presented by Theo Deutinger; and Ready Mades a collection of websites found in the domains-for-sale, presented by Constant Dullaart.

World at Work” by Theo Deutinger was very interesting. Theo Deutinger is an Austrian architect based in Rotterdam. In his work he combines architecture, research, visualization and conceptual thinking. Besides architecture his favourite projects are ‘snapshots of globalization’ – information visualizations and maps representing the globalizing world at the particular moment.

The project the “World at Work” presents earth as “Time Machine” (more like ‘machine for time’). Earth’s rotation around its axis and its travel through the solar system create days and nights, seasons and years. On top of that, people divided days in hours and years in months in order to organize their lives more accurately. Devices for measuring time were already available in the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, Greece, Rome… but only with the development of travel across large areas the question of accuracy became important. Also, with the increasing speed of travel it became clear that days and nights do not occur at the same time everywhere in the world, and the introduction of (artificial) time-zones happened at the end of the 19th century. “World at Work” project is based on the concept of the universal time zones.

Globalisation, which for Deutinger started with Magellan’s voyage around the world, is now at its final stages, he said. The world is now one big round room. “We are now living in a total state of globalization.” But Theo Deutinger refuses to see the world as being alienated and complex for understanding. He is looking for ways to tell a story about it, and one of his attempts are the Snapshots of Globalization, or SNOGs. They highlight this latest phase of globalization and try to define and explain systems and values that affect our modern society. These are contextualizing projects, valuable for the understanding of contemporary processes and movements. “World at Work” is a project from this series.

The “World at Work” project is a visualization which in three layers depicts and explores working patterns of the world population. The ‘worldclock’ shows where and when people in the world work, relax, and sleep, taking as a general rule that the working day lasts from 9am to 5pm. The result is the presentation of the unbalanced division of labour in different time zones. There are three possible views/layers in the visualization: Solar system view, which presents the solar system as calendar;  Earth, presented as a clock with 24 hours, view; and Workforce Cylinder view – a diagram that shows the dynamics of the global workforce (at its max 80%, while at its minimum only 2% of world population are working).

The most interesting discovery made by Deutinger (and his associates) in the relation to the global workforce was the emergence of a global day and night pattern/rhythm. For him, this day and night rhythm generated by the global workforce is very similar to the daily rhythm of a big city. In this way he suggests we should start thinking of the planet as a big city, whose citizens we all are and whose advantages and disadvantages we all share. We are all each-other’s next-door neighbours.

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