Monday, February 25, 2008

Linear Time versus Polychronic Time

In a traditional sense of the word, we see time as a linear progression from one point to the next. It is two o'clock before it is three o'clock, and an event has to begin before it can end, etc. In Lance Strate's Chapter 22 on Cybertime, he refers to the work of Marshall McLuhan and his description of polychronic time. If linear time describes a straight line progression from one point to the next, then polychronic time would involve the progression of multiple lines at the same time. The idea that the internet has opened doors and changed the way humans can experience time and space is unavoidable. Strate gives concrete examples such as the "new nanosecond culture" and "time-sharing" which are obvious dimensions invented by the versatility of cyberspace and the internet. Strate adapts the phrase "cyberspace" from the creation of the nano-second because of the existence of a segment of time that takes place beyond human consciousness. A nano-second could pass (and does) and we as humans would have no way to consciously realize this. The idea of time sharing is another component of McLuhan's theory of ploychronic time. Instead of one person being able to access one network, or one mainframe computer, multiple people are granted access at the same time. Even a document that is not duplicated through publication can be view by multiple people at any given time if they are granted access to the network where the document exists. Although Strate uses concrete evidence to formulate his argument for the evolution of time with the creation of the internet, I question the actual relevancy of the idea of "cybertime." The creation of the internet has obviously opened new dimensions to the speed in which we can experience the world (or whatever is put onto the net), but has it changed the fundamental framework of the clock and the way in which we view time? It is my belief that the clock, and measurement of time in a 24 hour day, is a timeless invention. The clock which tells us what time it is, when we have to leave our house, when we have to go to bed, and even wakes us up out of a sound sleep, will never evolve past its already established boundaries. No matter how fast and broad the internet becomes, it will still take us just as long to read an article as it always has, and just as long to write a page as it always has. Information is obviously more accessible, and at a faster rate, than it has ever been, but that does not mean that true time has to become shorter? We still have a 24 hour day, a 60 minute hour, and 60 second minute. The point of the internet is to broaden the availability of accessible information so that we can accomplish more and reach farther than we have ever been able to, not to rush through life and increase the speed of time.


Luke said...

Jimmy, first and foremost, what "nanosecond culture" or "time sharing" culture are you a part of? Are these things really invented by the internet or are they a natural progression of increased information exposure from the internet? Whens the last time you had a "nanosecond of pleasure", or pain or anxiousness? I agree, humans have problems conceptualizing the nanosecond, which is why I don't think we can call it a new nanosecond culture.

In response to your questioning of Strate's evidence of cybertime...? How often have you spent hours on end looking up Celtics stats and checking out girls on facebook?(sorry he's my roommate I have to take low blows sometimes). Cybertime exists because people get lost in the medium and have trouble logging out of the world wide web of information.

Not only this, but the internet provides a different genre of writing. It transcends the global clock in the sense that blogs, blurbs and websites have far less words and must be more precise than imaginative fiction novels or a 600 pg. The way that websites and new media are organized mimics graphs and articles of daily newspapers. Much more interesting and less time consuming than history books and easier to understand than abstract fiction of the 19th century or earlier (part of the reason our generation suffers from "Aliteracy", term coined by Hayes)

Lance Strate said...

All right, Luke!!! Way to go!!! In your face, Jimmy!!!

Just kidding. One thing to keep in mind is that clock time is invented, and was not with us throughout human history. For most of our history, we pretty much measured time by the natural environment, sunrise and sunset, phases of the moon, the seasons. Living in clock time is part of modernity, but now we're moving into something somewhat different, and it's worth considering what the differences are.