4. All Together Now: Synchronization, Speed, and the Failure of Narrativity

Title4. All Together Now: Synchronization, Speed, and the Failure of Narrativity
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsBowker, Geoffrey C.
JournalHistory and Theory

This paper looks at interconnections between social, scientific, and technical time over the period since the Enlightenment. The underlying argument is that each of these can be woven into a single narrative of our experience and description of time over that period. In particular, I maintain that the synchronization of social and natural time into ever smaller, interchangeable units has culminated today in the evacuation of the narrative of progress in favor of an ideology of the eternal present. Contra technologically determinist characterizations that claim a fundamental historical disjuncture occurring with the development of computers, I claim that this timeless present has historical roots going back to the origin of industrial societies through the age of Victorian certainty to our current epoch. The multiple times described here are argued to be telling a single story. I demonstrate this through developing a historiographical principle of infrastructural inversion, which foregrounds a common set of “techniques dispositifs” operating in the apparently separate worlds of science and industry. The assertion here is that our experiences and perceptions of time are deeply imbricated in our information infrastructures. I further argue that these ideological charged times are not hegemonic; they merely describe a motivating managerial vision of a proximate future.

Short Title4. All Together Now