Category Archives: temporal infrastructures

A Coming Crisis of Temporalities? Disruptions of Atomic and Solar Time

In their chapter Time and Space of the edited volume Critical Terms for Media Studies (2010), Mitchell and Hansen address a fundamental question that has puzzled philosophers and media thinkers since Ancient Greece: can time and space “be defined objectively, without recourse to human experience and distinctively human modes of perception and understanding” (p. 106)? According to Aristotle, they explain, “there is no time that is not measured […], which is equally to say that there is no time in itself, there are only temporalizations, technico-empirical specifications of time” (p. 111). Technological development, more specifically advances in the accuracy of measurement and tracking of time, introduces new temporalities which in turn disrupt those already present. The atomic clock, introduced in 1967, has been such a technological development, and has arguably disrupted existing temporalities like no other technology before then. In this short essay, we will discuss this disruption, leading to a potential scission between the time displayed on our clocks and the cycle of the sun. Is such a fundamental shift even conceivable? Continue reading »