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Author: wendy

Adam – 1990 – Time for Social Theory: Points of Departure (Chapter 7)

Summary: Adam describes the study of time as transdisciplinary and challenges the notion that time is entirely socially constructed. She tends to consider natural- and physics-conceptions of time, alongside social theory. Adam proposes that if we break down the limitations/barriers between understanding social time as largely symbolic and natural time as largely objective, then we can borrow methods of sensemaking from natural time and apply them to social time. This new way of engaging with time contextually, broadens our ways of knowing/understanding human temporal experience.

Synthesis: I found this chapter to be much more challenging to understand than the Quest for Time Control (2004). Critique of flawed social science perception of natural science as driven by laws, order, and quantitative attributes (subject-object) that are observable. This is contrasted with perception about social science as driven by history, culture, habit, and meanings which are socially constructed qualitative attributes (subject-subject).

Adam concludes with a call to modernize social time theory by engaging with artifacts and technology: “The focus on time helps us to see the invisible.”

Voida et al – 2007 – Supporting Activity in Desktop and Ubiqitous Computing

Summary: Book chapter that examines five challenges to address in designing ubiquitous computing systems for the workplace: That activities are multifaceted, dynamic, collaborative, exist at different levels of granularity, and exist across planes. The authors frame a critique of each of these challenges in an empirical study of Kimura, “an integrated desktop and interactive whiteboard environment that supports individual knowledge workers in managing and shifting among multiple work activities.”

Synthesis: Helpful description of how to integrate activity theory into empirical work and some of limitations that need attention, especially in knowledge work settings. Check literature to see if that fault has been remedied since this paper’s publication. Who has been citing Nardi, et al., in this domain?

Nowotny – 1992 – Time and Social Theory: Towards a Social Theory of Time

Summary: Extensive background piece on “social time” — the intersection of social theory and temporality (time representations, symbols, and perspectives). Nowotny raises concerns that social theory on time/temporality doesn’t bridge well with the concreteness needed to apply it to empirical research. She often refers to “pluritemporalism” over “multi-temporalism” or “transdisciplinary definitions of temporalism”, as other sociologists tend to do. Pluritemporalism (multiple types of time representations/symbols) recognizes that there is no hierarchy/order between different “modes” or “shapes” of time be they described as physical, social, etc.

Synthesis: Like Adam (1990), I had some difficulty with this chapter because I’m unfamiliar with foundational social theory. Nowotny points to early work that was focused on the social construction of time and symbolic/semiotic representations (see Zerubavel). Sociology and other disciplines see time as “embedded in things and artifacts” apart from what Adam refers to as natural time. Nowotny argues that social theory is too often reduced to a narrow, dualistic society vs nature perspective by focusing on symbolism in social time and failing to consider other (sui generis) types of time. This is especially problematic when exploring how time is embedded in “natural objects and technical artifacts”.

Fitzhugh et al – 2016 – Spatio-temporal filtering techniques for the detection of disaster-related communication

Summary: Quantitative study that explores a protocol for spatio-temporal filtering of user-generated natural disaster content (referred to here as informal communication) on Twitter.

Synthesis: Temporal filtering is operationalized as tweet timestamps and successive periods of 24-hr clock time. Some methodological decisions in this paper give me pause in citing it in my own work.

Zimbardo & Boyd – 1991 – Putting Time in Perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric

Summary: Seminal paper that initiated a nearly two decade research agenda on temporality that is grounded in Lewin’s field theory. The paper introduces Time Perspective (TP) Theory, a psychosocial construct used to encode, store, and recall experienced events as well as to anticipate future events. TP Theory describes a non-conscious process of cognitive frames, concrete and abstract representations, and learned experiences which help to give meaning and order to everyday life. TP theory provides guidance on how individual time perspective profile types — past, present and future — affect the way people interpret and interact with temporal information. The Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) is an empirically tested Likert scale that measures the various social, emotional, cognitive and motivational processes that contribute to and influence the ways people relate to time. The ZPTI was also found to be both a valid and reliable predictor of other temporally-related psychological factors (both positive as in goal setting, achievement, etc., and negative as in addiction, guilt, etc.).

Synthesis: Identifies time perspective as both a state and a trait. Claims that temporal bias results from habitual overuse/underuse of past, present or future temporal frames. Introduces the idea of optimal time shifting to incorporate various environmental forces for a healthier, more holistic approach to sensemaking. This fits with the idea that situational time perspective shifting is not only possible and be preferred. What are the heuristics and/or design implications for evoking more ideal time shifting behaviors and outcomes?