Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
A geography of time
This presentation will focus on social and cultural aspects of time. It will examine the diversity of ways that people from different cultures measure, use and conceive time and some of the consequences of these different ways of thinking and behaving. It will cover such topics as event versus clock time-keeping, the pace of life and its consequences, the concepts of time as money and wasting time, and how different cultures play the waiting game. The presentation will focus on two concepts that are particularly relevant to temporal differences between cultures: first, the distinction between clock and event time, and, second, the overall pace of life and its consequences.
Clock time versus event time-keeping. Cultures may take very different approaches to time-keeping. Under clock time, the hour on the timepiece governs the beginning and ending of activities. When event time predominates, scheduling is determined by activities. Events begin and end when, by mutual consensus, participants "feel" the time is right. The distinction between clock and event time is profound. Sociologist Robert Lauer, in his book Temporal Man, concluded that the most fundamental difference in timekeeping throughout history has been between people operating by the clock versus those who measure time by social events. Some of these differences will be discussed.
The pace of life and its consequences. In a series of studies, the author and his colleagues have studied the pace of life in cities around the world. In the first studies, the relationship between the pace of life and other urban characteristics was examined in a total of 36 small, medium and large metropolitan areas across the United States. Four indicators of pace were observed: walking speed, articulation rate (talking speed), bank teller speed (work speed) and the proportion of individuals wearing watches (concern with clock time). In subsequent studies, we measured the pace of life in major cities in each of 31 countries. In each country, we looked at three indicators of the pace of life: walking speed, how fast postal clerks fulfilled a standard request for stamps (work speed), and the accuracy of public clocks (clock time). In both studies, we found vast differences in the pace of life across cities. Several socio/demographic characteristics of cities, including climate and economic vitality, were predictive of these differences. We also found significant consequences of the pace of life: In particular, faster cities tended to have higher rates of death from coronary but, paradoxically, scored higher on happiness questionnaires. Explanations will be discussed.