Why Time is a Social Construct
2013 01 24

By Joshua Keating | Smithsonian



“What time is it?” is not a question that usually provokes a lot of soul-searching. It’s generally taken for granted that even if we don’t know the correct time, a correct time does exist and that everyone on the planet—whatever time zone they happen to be in—follows the same clock.

University of Missouri management scholar Allen Bluedorn believes time itself is a social construction. “What any group of people think about time ends up being a result of them interacting with each other and socialization processes,” he says.

We measure time not simply in terms of minutes and seconds, but in terms of concepts such as “early,” “late”—or, for that matter, “fashionably late.” What is the length of a “work day”? In the United States, Europe and Japan you’ll get three different answers.

Those subjective views help explain why the standardization of time has often been met with reluctance, if not outright resistance. Historically, countries have not eagerly embraced the global clock—they’ve felt compelled to do so because of the demands of commerce.

The U.S. national time standard, for instance, didn’t emerge until 1883, when it was adopted by the railroads, which needed to maintain common timetables. Before that, cities largely kept their own local time, and many were not happy to have big government and big railroads force standardization on them. “Let the people of Cincinnati stick to the truth as it is written by the sun, moon and stars,” editorialized one newspaper when the changeover was going into effect.

The era of globalization may be finishing the job, as information technology and the international supply chain knit nations together more tightly than ever.

But while it’s possible to synchronize clocks, synchronizing cultures has proven more challenging. One commonly recounted example is a group of American bankers in Mexico who found that their Mexican colleagues were frequently scheduling meetings for hours after they planned to head home for the day.

The famed American anthropologist Edward T. Hall argued that many of these differences are based upon whether a country is “mono- chronic” or “polychronic.” In monochronic societies, including Europe and the United States, time is perceived as fixed and unchanging, and people tend to complete tasks sequentially. In polychronic societies, including Latin America and much of Asia, time is more fluid and people adapt more easily to changing circumstances and new information.

[...]


Read the full article at: smithsonianmag.com





Related Articles
Eternal Clock Could Keep Time After Universe Dies
“Ready steady slow”: time slows down when we prepare to move
Physicist: HAARP Manipulates Time
2012: Seed Point of Fractal Time
In Time - Movie Trailer Official


Latest News from our Front Page

Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
LOL: Atheist Feminist Pornographer Used as Moral Authority in T-shirt Row
2014 11 21
Dr. Matt Taylor was thrust into the headlines this last week, largely for his lead role in successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles from earth that travels at a speed of 85,000 mph. In short, Taylor and his colleagues pulled off one of the most amazing achievements in contemporary science and space exploration, and in a ...
Forty Years that Unmade France
2014 11 21
Eric Zemmour is a well-known French author and television personality. Of Algerian-Jewish origin, he may seem an unlikely spokesman for French tradition, but he has emerged in recent years as a prominent scourge of ideological orthodoxy. He is unquestionably the most prominent mainstream French commentator who speaks candidly about race. Eric Zemmour This role comes with a price. In 2011 he was ...
Richard Spencer Under Fire
2014 11 21
The Flathead Beacon has a story on the mobbing of Richard Spencer consequent to the publicity over the Budapest conference. The city council is being asked to “an ordinance barring hate-group activities in the community.” As several of the comments note, the First Amendment seems to be of no concern to these activists. The article is interesting ...
More News »