December 1, 2015

The risks of hyper connectivity

Economy

There was a time when work and home were two separate realms. Our old-fashioned clock used to regulate our lives, dividing them into time/space-defined segments whose jealously guarded boundaries clearly separated the public from the private. Well, it’s not like that anymore. The ever-present connection provided by mobile technology completely wipes out time zones and office or house walls. The traditional concept of time and space, the one we tend to associate with week days and weekends, with their typical social interactions, are now porous places where people work, play, consume and establish relationships, anywhere and at any time.

We often hear people complaining about how new technology has colonised our lives. The perception of time passing faster than it actually does is something deeply rooted in our culture, and apparently we should blame smartphones and hyperconnectivity for it. I thought that one of the objectives these technologic devices were meant to achieve was to enable people to gather information faster, so they could spend the rest of their time doing something else. What happened? Wasn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier?

In an article published on the Pacific Standard, Judy Wajcman – Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and author of the book titled ‘Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism’ – explains that those devices that make us feel tormented and oppressed by our job – the British sociologist defines us some as some sort of cyber-slaves – are the same ones that enable us to work more efficiently, guaranteeing increased control on our time and allowing us to combine once-separated realms, which has resulted in new forms of intimacy as well as new ways to conciliate work and family.

According to Wajcman’s theory, we are not being taken hostage by communication devices: the feeling of always being constantly overloaded and running out of time is the result of the distorted priorities and parameters we have set for ourselves, of a wrong approach to the concept of time. It’s up to us, as usual, to choose what kind of life we want to lead, thoughtfully using the tools available to make sure we truly make the most of our time.

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