How does digital calendaring affect time?

Today, I’m presenting a paper at the Theorizing the Web conference, where I talk about what our use of everyday tools like MS Outlook and Google Calendar. Essentially, I provide some insight into this question: why are we so busy?

This paper will explore how contemporary web-based technologies affect calendaring and time reckoning in general. Like many other social phenomena, time reckoning is rapidly becoming a “digital” phenomenon. Millions of people use Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar. These very common web-based tools represent time in significantly different ways than traditional analogue calendars in that they make appointments digital. Digital artifacts can be ordered, and re-ordered at will, and easily “mashed up” with other artifacts.  In this paper, I trace three significant trends in calendaring. First, I will outline how the calendar, like the clock before it, has become increasingly a “personal” artifact. This shift has brought with it significant contestation and constructed the personal calendar into a symbol of “upward mobility.” Second, I sketch out the four ways in which the digital calendars differ from analogue ones: their apparent “bottomlessness,” their networked nature, the ease with which they are altered, and their low-fidelity, impersonal appearance. And finally, I will show how the digitization and personalization of calendaring are intersecting in the rise of personal mobile calendars on smartphones. I will then discuss the implications of these mobile, personal, digital calendars. I argue that the digital calendar is a paradoxical technology, which gives the impression of making “good use of time,” while at the same time masking its character as a labour-demanding device.


Changing Time: Digital calendars, smartphones and temporal transformation