New Experience of Time

Communication technologies have become omnipresent because of the smartphone. This condition has transformed our experience of time. Oral societies were based on cyclic time. Spoken words did not enjoy strict relations with the written word in such scenarios. Writing was in the form of drawings and hieroglyphs. Spoken words were very important. It being dependent on the medium of sound, humans experienced irreversible temporality. This is because human spoken words cannot be recovered once spoken. They exist in an irreversible temporality. But when human words were alphabetized and came to be written, they were freed from the irreversible temporality but got chained to the order of the logic of linearity. We can read the written word and return to the same text again and again. We can see how the sacred texts of religion are set free from temporal irreversibility but got entangled to linearity and logic that is different from the mythological thinking of the previous stage of humanity. This means with the new experience of time, we also have experienced a leap in our thinking. The written word ushered linear, rational and dialectical thinking while the previous thinking was cyclic and exhibits a different mode of rationality. 

With the rise of electracy, (digital world), we have stepped into the now-time of great intensity and speed. With this new experience of time, we have moved away from irreversibility and linearity of time. Everything occurs in the now. We are now imprisoned in the futurism of the instant. The moment I became pregnant with power and possibilities. Paul Virilio indicates that we are facing an information bomb. He says that experience of space has also changed. The tyranny of distance has given way to the tyranny of real time. We are living as disabled people do using prosthetic gadgetry of all kinds. Because of this, ‘now’ has almost replaced physical ‘here’. Virtual space has come to replace real space. This is why Jean Baudriard famously and provocatively said that the Gulf war was fought on the computers. Not just real space has lost its importance, even physical bodies are being replaced by their avatars in the digital world. Erotics of distance are fast derailing human intimacy and attraction. What we are facing is the disappearance of materiality due to excessive digitalization and the hegemony of the now over history and time of community. We are fast losing our links to our past and the future. 

This means our experience of time has changed. We are no longer rigidly enslaved by irreversible and linear time schedules. We have come to embrace flexi time. Flexi time or work schedules brings the best out of us. We are enabled to work optimally than those who are entangled by the dialectics of the irreversible and linear time. Maybe our attachments to the dialectics of irreversible and linear time refuses to see the change that surrounds us. The technological changes have indeed changed the experience of time. We experience reversible and non-linearity of time on our smartphones. We can rewind, stop and jump to the next item on our smart phone. Time has become elastic and we can stretch it in all directions as we live in a dynamic and intensive way now. Some people have moved on with this changed time, others are still pulling on with the irreversible and linear time. But moving on as well as staying on have their own costs. 

Virilio tells us that virtualization is also invisibilisation. When power becomes virtual it becomes invisible and almost omnipresent. This is why we have to understand how the virtual world has its power over us. While we are living in a now-time flowing at a great speed, we have less time to offer our responses and we almost are reduced to automatons who respond mindlessly and mechanically. This is the dark side of the loss of irreversible and linear experience of time. This experience of time offered us refreshing and reflecting breaks so that we could critically discern our responses. The fast paced digital world only allows for reflexive response and therefore, we have stepped into a new form of rationality and we may need what Aristotle called phronesis/ practical wisdom. Since virtualization has invisibilized space, place and even our bodies, we have a different mode of politics. We can see how parliament is silenced while mass political rallies as well television debate frenzies have become the order of the day. People are seen to cry slogans of their cultic leader in an ecstasy. This means we are trapped in a now bubble and mindlessly support political agendas without knowing that social engineering is producing our responses. 

It is important to realise that we are trapped into a bubble of now-time. The instant result culture has predisposed us while the rise of the internet and the communication technologies have imprisoned us into the now-time. We are now set to come full circle into logocentrism. Since we are liberated from both irreversibility and linearity, we are set free to hop in all directions of a focal moment that is now. Hence, it is urgent that we burst the time bubble before it explodes into our face. It has already destroyed our social life (family life) as we now prefer the next best thing to the face-to-face experience. Hence, we have to find ways of disengaging the now-time. Hannah Arendt had lamented that ‘we are losing our ability to think and speak of things nevertheless, we are able to do’. Living in the now-time, we are fast becoming automatons. This is certainly a degradation and enslavement of our humanity. 

Virilio taught us that the emerging world of digital communication technologies is threatening the possibility of politics. We are already seeing it in the form of hysteric masses around a cultic leader replacing debates in the parliament. But what is the way forward to us? It does appear that the way forward is through the internet and not outside it. We cannot change the reality that is around us. Greogory Ulmer certainly gives us the hope that our response to the tyranny of the now-time is on the internet. What we need is a singular purpose that was set by Arendt in her book, Human Condition: think what we are doing. Therefore, we cannot abdicate our ability to think what we do. Today, humanity needs it more than ever before.

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