Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Times They Are A Changing

Lance Strate brings up some very heavy ideas in his piece about 'Cybertime'. The apparent space bias discussed shows our prevalence to denote things in terms of the space they occupy. This thinking has passed over to the realm of computer technology and the Internet, infiltrating the design, ideology and terminology which it functions in. Indeed, Professor Strate remarks how politicians (and inventors like Al Gore) use terms such as "information super highway" to conceptualize or explain the Internet. This predisposition is what sets up the direction of the essay in discussing the true and grossly underestimated importance of time to both the Internet and the computer.
An extremely powerful correlation made is that of the mechanical clock and the computer, this initial relation ties in many of the points included later on in the essay about how essential and versatile time can be.
"As clocks became common, became not merely useful but unavoidable. Men and women began to work, eat, and sleep by the clock...as soon as they decided to regulate their actions by this arbitrary measurer of time, clock was transformed...into a necessity of urban life" (363)
Among other shared characteristics of the clock and the computer are the measurement of duration, the ability to determine present time and the foresight to provide alerts. However, Lance Strate is careful to point out that there are just a few differences...Since the computer is time through the digital format it is in essence a decontextualized form of time, where only the present moment is of concern. Moreover, the establishment of digital time as something created and "malleable" through its existence as data in the computer makes for it to be something that is not beyond the reach of the computer operating system (the "micro-world") to control what time really is. In this sense it does sustain a religious connection to it, that everything is functioning because of a God, a elemental force keeping the balance going, that is until...this world shuts down and everything freezes and time along with everything else has stopped.

While I may at first find this a stretched out point, I don't find myself hard pressed to see this point in the Y2k hysteria. Like a digital judgment day of destruction, this concern of a mass faulty set back in computer systems was one independent of the physical construct of our systems of time. Programmers and experts in the real world trying to alter the reality and working order of the computer micro-world could only hope to play the role of divine intervention and stop this independent progress of time (luckily it was all good).

Another point is the one Lance Strate brings up about the concept of the future in computers. Citing how computers can run simulations of stock markets and changes in systems to demonstrate the passing of time, these processes are done in the present and as such are invariably a reflection of the future within the context of the now. In this sense, digital time is not beyond that of real time. I'll be the first to admit that at times I was lost in the scope of the dense topic of cybertime, but i do believe this demonstrates the duality of cybertime as both existing in conjunction with the real world and expanding independent of it.

1 comment:

forand said...

Nice blog JChav, those are most of the strong points I found in Strate's article. I also agree with the space bias of the internet (webSITES, mailbox, the web, surfing, etc.)