Speed Of Time Essay, Research Paper
Virilio and Gleick use speed as an analytic tool/concept to understand post-contemporary society. Both authors trace the
evolution of speed through technology. However, Virilio sees the evolution of speed through war and Gleick analyses speed
through the evolution of “time”. Virilio?s technological military determinism in ?Speed and Politics? illustrates how we lost
slowness through technology and further more how it was developed for the purposes, and from the logic, of war. In ?Faster?,
James Gleick provides context for the complexity of post-industrial life and its transformation by technology. He tries to
define our relationship with ?time? to understand post-contemporary society. He places our culture’s infatuation with speed into
a context; historically, technically, and psychologically. Gleick dissects time, showing us how the ability to measure time in
ever more exact ways has affected us and the world in which we live in. He claims: ?if we don?t understand time, we become its
victims?. Gleick and Virilio?s technological determinism illustrates that technology, not humanity, is responsible for
determining the direction and development of human life.
Virilio argues that the city, politics, culture, human presence and values are decaying due to the speed/acceleration of life.
?We are passengers of the empty circle who only wish to arrive before they leave. Speed is a perfect will to impotence?. Virilio
uses speed as an analytic tool to theorize a post-contemporary society. He develops his post-structuralist critique through the
lens of his new methodology, ?dromology?; the science, and study of speed. “Dromomatics” alters our perceptions of speed,
examines the role of speed in history and its important functions in urban and social life, warfare, the economy, transportation
?In this precarious fiction speed would suddenly become a destiny, a force of progress, in other words a “civilization” in which
each speed would be something of a “religion” in time? .
This “dromocratic revolution” involves means of fabricating speed with the steam engine, then the combustion engine, and in our
day nuclear energy and instantaneous forms of warfare and communication.
Technology is used to build the global war machine, ?the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases? . According to
Virilio the phenomenon of technology came in large part from the arsenal and war economy. The author?s concept of
post-contemporary reality is founded on the sociology of military technology, which changes the contemporary perceptions of
space and time.
?the transportation capacity created by the mass production of automobilies [?] can become a social assault, a revolution
sufficient and able to modify the citizen?s way of life by transforming all the consumer?s needs, by totally remodeling a
It is the dissolution of the social. The conquest of the postmodern technology of pure speed as a war machine, one in which we
are all processed: ?the militarization of societies [?] makes every citizen a war machine? .
Weapons of war are based on developing the speed of attack. “Speed is the essence of war” [Sun Tzu]. Military technology,
technologies of representation, and new computer and information technologies have constituted the post-contemporary. War
intensified through technology, which is accelerated by speed. War is the center of civilization.
?The class struggle is replaced by the struggle of the technological bodies of the armies according to their dynamic efficiency?
We are a culture inclined towards extremism at a point where technology appears to speed up as it approaches inertia. ?The
treshold of speed is continously shrinking, and the faster engine is beconig more and more difficult to conceive of? .
Technologies of simultaneity and coherence, maintain civilian society in a state of permanent mobilization, driven by the
competition for markets, resources and spheres of influence. ? Revolution is movement, but movement is not revolution? . A
battle for supremacy in the processes of economic concentration, in which the fronts, no longer drawn up along national
boundaries and between political systems, are defined by technical standards. A battle in which the power of knowledge is
managed as a profitable monopoly of its distribution and dissemination.
Bourgeois power is military even more than economic, but it relates most directly to the occult permanence of the state of
siege, to the appearance of fortified towns. 
Gleick traces the evolution of time through technology, ?only in an age of speed, can we stop time?. He reveals how through
technlogy time has changed from the second to the millisecond and finally to nanosecond. ?During a nanosecond balls, bats,
bullets and droplets are motionless? . The Directorate of Time, devised by the Defense Department, maintains a Master Clock
that sends its timely data on the steady movements of “atomic beams in their vaults” to the International Bureau of Weights and
Measures in Paris. “The result is . . . the exact time — by definition, by worldwide consensus and decree.” All of modern life
ticks to that metronome. ?Humanity is now a species with one watch, and this is it?. Gleick argues that before atomic clocks,
cell phones, nanosecond computer speeds and telephone redial buttons, our timeliness ware less compulsiv,. We could “spend” time
profitably or not. Time passed while we were occupied or idle. “In time,” things came to pass and passed away. In “epoch of the
nanosecond? we waste time, we gain it and lose it, we kill it, we budget and organize it, we move from “real time” to “virtual”
time. And every second, split second, microsecond, we are obsessed with “saving” time. Once we learned what time it was,
measurable to the millionth of a nanosecond, we could treat time as a quantity, a commodity to be bought, sold and invested.
Societies running at different speeds produce different cultures. . As the speed of devices accelerates, we are retrained to
faster rhythms. Waiting 10 seconds for an elevator feels intolerably long. We take our news in fast-food bites, and even music,
the art made of time, is getting shorter. Classical stations rarely play an entire symphony any more. The 1,440-minute day is
not expandable, the average American spends almost as much time per day filling out paperwork for the federal government (4
minutes) as having sex (4.5 minutes). Gleick questions what is “more” time; is it fuller or freer? Is time saved when we manage
to leave it empty, or when we stuff it with multiple activities, useful or pleasant?
The implications of time-saving is that we’re in a rush; we’ve got short attention spans; everything’s moving faster.
Telecommunications has made the transfer of information easy and quick. Therefore, the expectation for the amount of work to be
completed is higher.
This evolution of time has changed our perception and experience of the world. Through fragmenting time we have become more
fragmented ourselves. We have all become adept at processing millions of bits of information simultaneously, multitasking. We
eliminate all pauses and try to compress everything into a single moment; television and radio interviews are routinely
compressed slightly, to remove the annoying pauses and delays of human speech. We have become speed hybrids, guzzling espresso
and working 18 hour days, constantly plugged into the Net and mobile phone. Our eyes have adapted to more cuts per second, and
our multitasking skills have never been sharper. Speeding and multitasking is a cultural disorder. New technologies, like
caffeine or amphetamines, are “additives for our engines.” We want to move faster, think faster, and do several things at once.
Laborsaving and convenience-oriented technological innovations created in the interest of expanding free time have done the
opposite. We are now “accessible” both in and outside the workplace, responding to the needs of machines. However, if we pause
we become impatient, we are bored. We are intoxicated by speed. Gleick places mania as the opposite of boredom and then places
it into a historical context. Boredom is a relatively modern phenomenon: “The word boredom barely existed even a century ago”
. The author relates the concept of boredom to our cultural approach to time. We relax at speed, forever trying to scrape
off a few seconds here and there so we can get something else done because there?s never enough time. This cultural acceleration
is producing a generation of attention-deficit-speed freaks, a new race of multitasking superhumans, capable of simultaneously
downloading files, channel surfing, and writing e-mail.
Virilio?s Speed and Politics and Gleick?s Faster are essay on our culture’s experience of time and speed. Both books imply that
we are living in an information-culture and technology is our religion. Virilio analyses how technologies have been developed
for the war economy and gives an account how those technologies have crept into and militarized civilian lives. He illustrates
the interdependence between speed, technology, and war. Gleick?s meditation on hurriedness illustrates how those technologies
have altered our perception of time, which in turn has altered the individual?s concept of self. We are in a rush. We are making
haste. A compression of time characterizes the post-contemporary society. Stress, an adrenaline rash, and mania, are symptom of
the speed sickness, a result of the rapid march of technological progress. We hurry up and wait, in doctors’ offices, traffic
jams, airport gates, on hold with the tech line. An inflexible networked system needs only one glitch, a delayed flight, to
starts an inexorable ripple effect that can turn into a catastrophic tidal wave.
virilio, speed nad politics and gleicks faster
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