Working mostly through the internet has introduced me to a whole new set of problems around time, ones that are probably going to shape our future. As we enter an era in which men in London write accounts for managers in Hong Kong whose factories are somewhere in the middle of Asia, time starts working differently, professionally speaking. The same goes for leisure. If the new episode of Sherlock shows at eight o’clock GMT in the UK, how quickly do BBC America need to show it before they start losing viewers to torrent sites? (Answer – straight away because that show is awesome.)
So if it’s Tuesday in Australia…
I’ve noticed two different aspects of this in the past week.
First up is the employer day problem. I’m doing some work for a chap in Australia. Problem is, half the time Australia’s on a different day from me in England, never mind a different time. And Australia’s a big place, so I imagine it’s not all on one time zone. If I say I’ll provide some articles on Tuesday, when do I need to send them to reach his Tuesday? Do they need to go Monday night or sometime in the middle of Tuesday? Do I have until Wednesday morning?
Yes, I could work this out for myself if it was a big issue. But the point is that, for a couple of hours a week, it’s an issue at all.
The other thing is blogging. I read an interesting article (sorry, lost the url) that gave data on the times of day to post blog posts to maximise links (7am) comments (8am) and views (10am). But whose timezone should I be working on here? Should I go by American time, as that’s where the largest number of potential readers for my blog are? Should I go Greenwich Mean Time, as my core readership is built around fellow Brits I know outside of the electronic sphere? What about the people reading me in Australia and Estonia (hi guys!)?
And now for some science fiction
The issues I’ve stumbled across are ones I can work out with some research and a bit of trial and error. But they highlight the fact that our sense of time is no longer as geographically bound as it once was. That has potential for the future, and for social science fiction.
Cory Doctorow beat me to this one by a decade with his novel Eastern Standard Tribe, but there’s still much more to explore. Will we start to align not by daylight but by our professional schedules? Will we one day be split not by Greenwich Mean Time, Dubai Time and East Coast Time, but by Accountant Time, Cleaner Time, Writer Time? Will there be some mishmash of the two? Are there people already living in Britain but on Australian time because that suits their lifestyle? Or on New York Time, Hong Kong Time, Berlin Time?
There’s a character in this, and a story. I haven’t quite come up with either yet, but if you have an idea then maybe share it below. Or go write about it yourself, because everybody should take the time to write.
And has our fractured temporal landscape (note to self – use that in a book) affected you? Let me know how. Share below. I’m curious.
Picture by Toenex Lacey via Flickr creative commons.