Sunday, January 27, 2008

Time-Share Mondos

Near the center of Geert Lovink's Zero Comments, there is a chapter about Internet time called "Indifference of the Networked Presence," much of which deals with concepts about economies of attention and distraction familiar to readers of Richard Lanham and Peter Krapp respectively. Lovink points out how these fluctuations in attention and distraction also contribute to the abandonment of blogging by early-adopter figures like Joi Ito (and I would argue Krapp also).

In much of the chapter Lovink describes the common fugue experience of online time in which minutes, hours, and days disappear in time passed in front of the computer screen that is spent engaging with a range of texts and social actors. Rather than adopt a Puritan attitude about time wasted, Lovink compares this wandering through online environments to the figure of the flaneur familiar to readers of Lev Manovich and Ian Bogost, as well as to those more obviously of Walter Benjamin.

I thought that Lovink made a convincing case for the rise of "enhanced global time awareness" in the Internet age rather than the need for any one regime of standardized online time that would be enforced by a single regulatory structure. As someone who frequently collaborates with people in other continents, I try to be sensitive to the circadian rhythms of global others, even if I will admit to doing the math wrong at first when I scheduled James Kotecki to come to my class via teleconference.

Unfortunately, this form of temporal consideration often doesn't occur to conference organizers who make automated online submission cutoffs dependent on implicit assumptions about the time zone naturalized by possible participants. I'm grateful whenever I see a due date of "11:59 PM Apia Time" on a call for papers and know that I'm dealing with academics who understand that even deadlines can be relative for those in other time zones and that the best policy is one with the most generous interpretation.

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