Finding Time in a Digital Age
This week’s reading from Barbara Adam explored the temporality of work-life, and how an accelerated society has emerged through new technological advancements. This seemed a pretty apt reading for a bunch of time poor third year media students, frantically trying to juggle study with several internships and a part-time job, whilst maintaining healthy relationships with friends, partners and family, and some downtime to catch up on the latest Netflix binge-worthy drama of course (it’s Stranger Things atm if you’re keeping tally).
It is interesting food for thought to explore this notion that technological growth and increased innovation *should* lead to greater productivity and in turn, less need for human work, leading to a slowed lifestyle with more time for leisure. Wrong, of course, but interesting to follow that thought train. Why then, are we all working so damn hard all of the time, multitasking between study and work and family and rarely taking any time out for ourselves?
Part of the answer to this question, Adam contests, is this insatiable desire for consumption goods and a public discourse that refuses to acknowledge the value of leisure. Instead discourse seems to dictate that a “successful” life is one spent busy working hard and filled with lavish material objects one pays for with the money earned working 50+ hours per week. It might be coincidental that earlier today I read this article, but I’m starting to feel a little disenchanted with our capitalist economy and consumer centric lifestyle that doesn’t value recreation.
What excites me about Adam’s article, is the way in which she discusses technological impacts on labour, and it isn’t all negative either. Whilst technology hasn’t exactly slowed down our work-life as was once predicted, it has allowed for the softening of time. What is meant by this is our schedules are less rigid, as technology allows for the coordination and re-negotiation of engagements. The increased pace of technology can yes, make us feel harried but as Adam contends, “also free up time, allowing for much greater autonomy, flexibility, and versatility in how we organise human affairs” (p. 169).
One of the other takeaways for me is this notion of quantifiable productivity and designing tech in order maximise efficiency. In this sense, we are output focused and it saddens me that we are developing new innovations as just a means to an end. This idea of “wasting time” is something that I never questioned, and yet it’s pretty interesting in and of itself. We are so productivity focused that this is viewed negatively.
Adam also delves into many of the social and political impacts of this vast topic, so I won’t detail them all here. It has given me lots to think about not just in terms of my own future working life but also how this might fit into my research topic of media environments or spaces and the technology which shapes them.