Wasn’t technology supposed to give us more leisure time? Predictions of ‘the end of work’ have in fact proved far fetched. If anything, shrinking electronics and pervasive connectivity have blurred the distinction between work and leisure.
The result is that far from being our ever-present friend and helpful companion, the mobile phone or tablet is often more like an unwanted hanger-on, persistently reminding us of the things we should be doing but don’t want to, and impossible to ignore.
But when we complain about this phenomenon, what we’re really annoyed about is the way that technology has changed how we perceive time, and created the impression that life is somehow ‘faster’ than it used to be. When did the acceleration start, and can we do anything to address it? Isn’t the main purpose of mobile communications to give us such rapid access to people and information that we end up with more time free to do other things?
These are just a few of the questions that Judy Wajcman, a sociology professor at the London School of Economics, addresses in ‘Pressed for Time’. We’re not mere hostages to our mobile devices, she argues; the sense of always being rushed is the result of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set.
It’s a thorough historical review of how a productivity-driven culture has made the idea of having a busy, action-packed life something to aspire to. From the commodification of ‘clock time’ the emerged from the Industrial Revolution to the different social groups value their time in modern society, she illustrates the complex relationship with work patterns and family arrangements.
It’s not designed to be a ‘how to’ guide to time management, but by taking a close look at how we’re moving inexorably towards a 24/7 always-on world where it’s often hard to distinguish between whether we’re ‘at work’ or ‘at home’ it’ll prompt readers to think carefully about what they’re letting themselves in for.
‘Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism’ by Judy Wajcman is published by The University of Chicago Press,price £17.00, ISBN 9780226196473