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Social Sci LibreTexts

3.11: Technology, Time, and Space

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    • Contributed by Media Hack Team
    • Hack-a-thon at University of Otago and others
    • Published by Creative Commons

    There is a long history exploring the relationship between technology and the ways that people experience time and space. Early theorists to explore this relationship include French philosopher Henri Bergson and German sociologist Georg Simmel. Writing at the start of the 20th Century, Simmel was particularly taken by how the invention of the pocketwatch was crucial to the structuring of time within the newly industrialised cities, how the pocketwatch had allowed time to be quantified in a far more precise way than previous technologies, and how this had ramifications for the emerging industrial economy. In a famous essay entitled The Metropolis and Mental Life, Simmel writes:

    If all clocks and watches in Berlin would suddenly go wrong in different ways, even if only by one hour, all economic life and communication of the city would be disrupted for a long time. In addition an apparently mere external factor: long distances, would make all waiting and broken appointments result in an ill-afforded waste of time. Thus, the technique of metropolitan life is unimaginable without the most punctual integration of all activities and mutual relations into a stable and impersonal time schedule.