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Life in the fast lane? Towards a sociology of technology and time

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Assumptions about the pace of life speeding up abound in contemporary social theory. While many factors are contributing to this phenomenon, information and communication technologies are seen as the main drivers. This article considers the way social theorists analyse the concepts of time and speed and then examines how these claims might be assessed in the light of empirical research. Such research shows that time compression has multiple dimensions, and that the effect of digital devices like the mobile phone is not simply one of acceleration. In particular, I suggest that the social studies of technology offers a richer analysis of the reciprocal relationship between technological innovation and changing time practices. My argument is that while the hitherto neglected temporal dimension in sociological theory is now being addressed, there is an urgent need for increased dialogue to connect social theory with detailed empirical studies. Without this, we will continue to have difficulty distinguishing social science from science fiction.

Keywords: Time scarcity; mobile communication technologies; speed

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2007.00182.x

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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