Media and Time

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The shift to electronic computing that began slowly in the late 20th century, and has only become more widespread since, was the core of a global media infrastructure. This agglomeration of technologies, devices, protocols, users, signals, networks, and cables has become the reference point for a contemporary idea of an economy of speed. The internet is ‘fast’ and ‘instantaneous,’ enabling ‘simultaneous’ communication that folds into a ‘24/7’ online culture that is always online. Speed is underwritten by a sense of permanence, both in the idea that metadata traces are left in indelible ink for corporate platforms to retain for their big data analytics in perpetuity, and the popular culture idiom that ‘once something is on the internet, it cannot be deleted.’ Data is far less permanent than any idiom would suggest. The internet’s capacity to send information instantaneously is not uniform. Indeed even the idea that it is simultaneous is a very anthropic perspective on the matter, given that individual computers may send data encapsulated in different protocols which themselves have different relationships to speed, order, and efficiency. The internet is presently the most visible and most prevalent of current media systems, and it has impacted the temporal character of our relationships with each other. Not only have humans used a range of media at different periods throughout history, we also presently use a wide variety of media that have different relationships to time, different relationships to the past. Accordingly, media have affected our own perceptions of time in different ways: from the workplace, to interpersonal communication, through shaping our perspective of history and culture, to reflecting on the possibility of what could have been, and creating mechanisms for us to preserve something of ourselves into the future. The study of media vis a vis time has its foundations in the works of a number of key scholars including from fields of study in philosophy, economics, and sociology of science. Key developments in the study of media tend to focus on how the temporal affordances of media rearrange aspects of the economy or of daily life, with a significant focus on how temporal media shape personal experiences of work and labor. The field of media archaeology has emerged relatively recently as a methodology for understanding the social location of media technology of the past, and has quickly developed an enthusiastic community with a rigorous research agenda. This entry broadly covers a number of key scholarly contributions to the study of time in the context of media.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies online
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages3
ISBN (Print)9780199756841
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2020

Publication series

NameOxford Bibliographies


  • media theory
  • media studies
  • time
  • Time perception
  • media archaeology
  • game studies

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