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Category: temporality

Zerubavel – 1987 – The Language of Time: Toward a Semiotics of Temporality

Summary: The paper explores how people use symbolic language to communicate about sociotemporality (the social contexts of how time is perceived, experienced and contextualized). Temporal semiotics are used to convey sociocultural meaning in either interpersonal (microsocial) and large social structural/systemic (marcosocial) relationships. Semiotic codes that represent symbolic, non-literal social communication about time/temporality is not an explicit skill to be learned but something seemingly intuitive to both speaker and listener. This is likely a factor in why it’s so hard to for people to talk in explicit terms about temporality. Semiotic signs, metaphors, metonyms and other figures of speech do a lot of heavy lifting to convey meaning beyond the literal definition of the words. Such that, to describe such an innate metacognitive process can be very challenging.

Synthesis: Lots to unpack here. How does semiotic communication get reflected in Reddy’s TRH or Mazmanian’s porous time concepts? How can you manage online social coordination of rhythms/horizons when there are no ready cues/signals to convey intent/commitment? Is there something unique in the way SBTF volunteers symbolically talk online via an asynchronous platform about Zerubavel’s time codes: duration, waiting, lead time, speed, frequency, timing, ever-available, firmness/finality, rigidity, sequence, and the manipulation of these temporal experiences?

Example: Could the multiple temporalities that symbolize importance account for a source of tension between always online volunteers and those who show up for random periods of time? Deployments have fixed time periods for data collection but no scheduling mechanisms for volunteers. Does this create a source of friction when there is no mechanism to signal social intent or meaning?

Mazmanian et al – 2015 – Circumscribed and porous time: Logics as a way of studying temporality

Summary: The authors extend classic CSCW literature to propose “porous time” as a new approach for examining sociotemporality that challenges the dominant temporal logic (see contested areas below). Four specific elements of porous time (spectral, mosaic, rhythmic, and obligated) are described as more realistic representations of lived experience and offer more multi-faceted ways to consider time in future theoretical and applied sociotemporal research.

Synthesis: Like the Lindley paper, Mazmanian, et al., contributes a much-needed re-engagement with and vocabulary to describe sociotemporality as a modern phenomenon. Building from Zerubavel and Reddy’s work and complementing Lindley’s meta review, this paper takes a more organizational theory approach by ethnographically examining sociotemporal tensions between work and family activities. The citations are a Who’s Who in organizational HCI via UC Irvine with references to earlier work by Voida, Palen, Mark, Bowker, and Grudin.

Brunelle – 2017 – In Search of Time and Temporality: The process of temporal reflexivity

Summary: Empirical study on how people adapt/adjust their thinking about temporal constraints, and structures in order to accomplish daily tasks. The paper presents a typology of the temporal reflexivity process (conceptual, behavioral, procedural and structural) that people use to fine-tune their actions in the workplace. Helpful overview of temporal structuring concept.

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Lindley – 2015 – Making Time

Summary: Lindley’s position paper serves as an important theoretical bridge between classic sociotemporality literature and more recent interdisciplinary approaches to thinking about and designing for time. Acknowledging the contributions of Zerubavel, Orlikowski and Yates, and other works that have long informed HCI and CSCW research, the paper signposts new research that broadly explores temporality in organizational studies, HCI design, and coordination work.

Synthesis: This paper strikes me as a pretty urgent call to arms to integrate broader notions of sociotemporality into HCI research, including non-Western philosophies. That a fair number of different CSCW/CHI sub-disciplines began publishing about sociotemporal concerns in a brief period of time can’t be explained away as a happy accident. Without knowing the backstory, it does seems to hint that there was some rising concern within the qualitative HCI research community about the future direction of coordination work studies and about design implications for new SaaS/technical products that promote faster-paced lives at huge societal costs in terms of quality of life, stress, and misplaced (industrialized) values.

Pschetz, Bastian and Speed – 2016 – Temporal Design: Looking at time as social coordination

Synthesis: As a concept, Temporal Design introduces a critical design approach to integrate rarely-considered alternative types of temporal expressions and artifacts in products designed for social coordination activities. The paper describes the Temporal Design process and evaluates the integration of multiple types of sociotemporalities into the design of three time-based prototypes. Barbara Adam’s work on timescapes is featured as an underlying theory about social coordination.

Reddy, Dourish + Pratt – 2006 – Temporality in Medical Work: Time also matters

Summary: An ethnomethodological study of information-seeking activity by SICU nurses. Reddy et al. highlight trajectory/rhythm/horizon temporal structures to describe the sociotemporal dimensions of distributed work in the context of 24/7 shifts when workers are not co-located.

Synthesis: The study responds to a body of related CSCW literature on distributed work practices where distance dominates and spatiotemporal dimensions are entangled. Reddy et al., draw from a largely unexplored perspective that parses temporal perspectives from the spatial in order to better understand how people collaborate during information-seeking activities.

Adam – 2004 – The Quest for Time Control

Summary: Adam argues that sociotemporal reactions/responses/concepts have deep historical roots and intercultural relationships. Current ways of thinking about time continue to be significantly influenced by post-industrial socio-economic constructs, like clock-time, labor efficiencies (speed/compression), value metaphors (commodity, control), and geopolitics (colonialization, power). From this foregrounding, Adam introduces the concept of timescapes — “a cluster of temporal features, each implicated in all the others but not nec­essarily of equal importance in each instance.”

Synthesis: Adams argues here and through her other papers that social science researchers need to focus less on the obvious temporal conflicts in everyday life and focus more on the “socio-environmental impacts, underlying assumptions and their material expressions, institutional processes and recipients’ experiences, hidden agendas and power relations, unquestioned time politics and ‘othering practices.”

Adam further notes how important it is to understand how people factor into discordant time compressions through everyday sociocultural interactions — which she refers to as “the human-technology-science-economy-equity-environment constellation.”

The control of time is futile in an interconnected network where hyper-compression has effectively rendered duration/intervals of time as unmeasurable. If temporality cannot be “measured, fixed, regulated or controlled” (see timescapes image), then time cannot be controlled. Subsequently, we need other approaches to be “in the realm of instantaneity.”

Letondal et al – 2009 – Temporal Data and Data Temporality: Time is change, not only order

Summary: Considers two approaches to exploring temporal data for the purpose of designing better tools: Time as order which describes data attributes useful for improved navigation or organization and Time as change which incorporates a dynamic quality to the data.

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