Empires of Speed (Supplements to the Study of Time)
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The beginning of the 21st century is witnessing the emergence of a social, political and technological revolution in networked computing. We now live in a networked society, but it functions and develops at such an accelerating rate that it becomes increasingly difficult to adequately understand the nature of this radical society. "Empires of Speed" is the first book to analyse the far-reaching transformations of speed-filled everyday life. In a compelling study Hassan shows that we are leaving behind a modern world based upon the time of the clock, and are entering a new and volatile phase where an accelerating network time poses fundamental economic and political challenges in our postmodern world, challenges we barely comprehend and are thus woefully unprepared for."
978-90-04-17590-7 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Time—Sociological aspects. 2. Information society. 3. Information technology—Social aspects. 4. Computers and civilization. I. Title. HM656.H38 2009 303.48’3301—dc22 2009012416 ISSN 1873-7463 ISBN 978 90 04 17590 7 Copyright 2009 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication
chapter two operates through the dynamic of capitalism, through the speed mania that is fuelled by competition and the ‘time is money’ nexus; but there is another dimension here that is important to include. Arguably, most technologies are ‘speed generators’ in that their design and use are calculated to make processes more efficient and thus faster. It would follow that if speed is built into technologies then so must also be time. For example, the ‘time’ of an axe is immeasurable and not
you—and you on it. The ‘always on’ networked computer at home and work blurs the distinction between these spaces and the roles that are enacted within them. They help reorder these previously distinct and infinitely diverse roles in line with more instrumentally-geared tasks that are oriented at some level to the global system of production and investment that neoliberalism has created through the harnessing of the power of digital information technologies. In a 2008 book by Jonathan Zittrain
we see its obverse, daily, in mainstream media, in business and in government, and in increasingly powerful right-wing think tanks, exhorting workers to be efficient and flexible no matter the circumstances, because their very livelihoods depend on it. The same logic works at the level of international trade where there is another set of laws for global corporations who can complain to the World Trade Organization (WTO) of ‘unfair competition’ from subsidized Nicaraguan banana farmers or Kenyan
It is vital to understand the inherent temporal dispositions of these ways of thinking about the world and how well (or how poorly) they are suited to the current social, economic, technological and temporal order. By foregrounding the time perspective we can see that instrumental thinking with its emphases on productivity and efficiency, of identifiable goals and ‘ontological assumptions’ regarding the way the world is, meshes easily with the priorities of speed. Critical reason, on the other