Week 3: Time

Hartley J. (2004). “The Frequencies of Public Writing: Tomb, Tone and time” In Jenkins, H. And Thorburn, D. Democracy and the New Media. MIT Press, USA, pp 247-269

“…condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century…and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.” (http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/003POF03SpaceEffort09121962.htm )

These were the words of former US president John F Kennedy in 1962 at the Rice University in Houston, expressing a philosophical point of view for the need for the US to expand its space program. Whilst Kennedy referral and meaning of ‘space’ is different to that of John Hartley, there approach on time is the same.

In the most recent years of human history, technology, our way of thinking and living have changed rapidly. In just 100 years (a mere fraction of the time that humans have existed) we have come from the Wright Brothers flight craft to the space shuttle. As Kennedy above points out, it seems that it is in the most recent years of human existence, there has been a higher frequency of occurrence of almost everything: Inventions, intellects, ideals and more recently through the media, perhaps most predominately journalism. Hartley’s main aim is to inform the reader about the nature of the varying ‘frequencies’ of which journalism (as well as public writing and other media forms) act in the past and in postmodern times.

Hartley’s 2 key concepts and ideas seem to be the intertwining relationship between technology and the temporal realm (time). Here, people are rather connected through time, rather than space. As technology advanced, the information and news we receive gradually became quicker. With the invention of Gutenberg’s press, news became daily. With radio and television, they became hourly. With the advent of the internet, information can now be sent and received across the globe almost instantaneously. People in different parts of the world now can receive information simultaneously. Physical space and distance are no longer issues concerning the transfer of news and information. It is the domain of time that now constitutes most of our society.

“…people are identifying with “virtual” communities based on coexistence in time, not coextension in space.”

For example now, the high frequencies of social sites such as Twitter and Facebook (which have live feeds that update instantaneously) have perhaps strengthened Hartley’s assessment. These sites tell us what we, our friends, their friends, and their friends ( and so on) are doing, reading, writing, posting, talking and even thinking at almost any given moment in time. We no longer need to be physically in the same place as our friends or any other people. We bypass the spatial realm. Through a computer and an internet connection, we are all linked together (as Hartley suggests above) in “virtual communities”.

At first Hartley seems to be providing a warning of sorts about high frequency media, at the very end, he concedes that is just perhaps that the very foundations of society are shifting: “Democracy itself may be migrating from space-based technologies to faster, time-based ones.”


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