International Society for the Study of Time  

Presentations for Edinburgh 2016

June 26 – July 2


Fred Turner

“Cli-fi,” or climate fiction, is a powerful vehicle for expressing the tension between the huge time scales of natural processes and the blindingly fast (and faster) pace of human activity.  I am currently writing an epic poem of ten thousand lines entitled Apocalypse, set in the near future, depicting a climate catastrophe that includes the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets, massive weather events, and vast floods. 

The poem describes the work of scientists, technologists, ideologists and politicians to cope with the disaster, and the major military confrontations that result.  The struggle between history and the present, between civil society and ungovernable flow, between human freedom and the legal status of the commons, between ideas of geo-engineering and ideals of cyclic harmony with nature, and between the promethean possibilities of human science and the ethics of gardening an entire planet are all explored in terms of the multivocal symbolism of water.   The mythic meanings of flood stories from all over the world and deep into the human past are marshaled to enrich the story.  A large multi-cultural cast of characters, involved in various institutions, dramatizes the philosophical and political issues. 

A further twist in the plot opens up a searching social and cultural critique (quite different from the conventional picture of environmental ethics, but not entirely at odds with it); and the emergence of artificial intelligence and the possibility of existentially perfect memory take the poem a transcendent step further. 

The proposed presentation would summarize the general plot, dramatis personae and theme of the poem, illustrated by a few passages from it.

Postmodern Music And Memory

Deborah Bradley-Kramer

This concert-talk concerns how a composer¹s, listener¹s, and/or performer¹s memories of music previously heard contribute to the creation of new musical experiences.

In the mid-twentieth century, composers often sought to minimize the impact of memory as they tried to make each composition as unlike its predecessors as possible.  In today¹s postmodern climate, however, we understand that virtually every musical work is intertextually related to other works.  Hence, our memories of those other works become crucial to how we understand new works that we are hearing, performing, or composing.

Postmodern musical compositions celebrate their intertextuality. The composer¹s, performer’s, and listener¹s memories of the past shape musical experiences of the present.  This process is problematic, however, because memory inevitably distorts.  Such distortions became extreme in the hands of certain modernist composers (Stravinsky and Ives, among others) of the early to mid-twentieth century.  They tried to put their personal stamp on the music they quoted or referred to.  They tried to “own”  the past.

Postmodern composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, by contrast, are more likely to let the past be what it was, even as they bring it into the present.  Rather than trying to prevail over the past, they hold a magnifying glass to it, showing how it may be remembered in new contexts and, in the process, deconstructing the values

This presentation will consider two of Kramer’s last compositions: Imagined Ancestors and Music for Piano V. Both works depend on listeners¹ memories of the past In Music for Piano V, for example, the incessant but minutely altered ostinato bass seems to mark an era that is no era, and it is out of sync with the rhapsodic, jazzy flourishes that occur over this bass which simultaneously hints at Baroque performance practices.

The music does not really sound Baroque, however, because of unpredictable rhythms and obsessive reiterations.  It is more like a memory, or even a dream, of the Baroque than like the thing itself. 

In Imagined Ancestors, Kramer inhabits the worlds of many composers of the past--immediate and distant.  They are my ancestors.  But I do not quote, repeat, copy, or mimic them.  I use them not as they actually were but as I imagine them in my memory.  I write my own music, not theirs, yet my music is filled with my idiosyncratic memories of their music.

As critic Kyle They are imagined.  “He¹s not simply quoting or imitating: he¹s making up his own styles from musical elements that we think of as not belonging together.”  Of an earlier intertextual work of Kramer’s,  Gann wrote, “The diverse 'styles¹ referred to were more imaginary than real. . . .  The piece wasn¹t a collage, but a set of disconcerting fractures within a single musical subjectivity.  The work¹s ambiguity was invested in its meaning, not in its moment-to-moment perception.”

Constructing Urgency for Readers

Sabine Gross

Urgency cannot be measured objectively. It is a subjective and intersubjective assessment of a situation that is deemed to be moving towards a deadline or experienced as connected with a scarcity of time, frequently giving rise to an affective state of tension, anxiety, or impatience. It is also an essential dimension of creating suspense in fictional/literary texts and of presenting particularly dramatic scenes, especially the inevitability of a character’s tragic death.

This presentation will investigate how authors create the affective “coloring” of urgency as a textual effect. Expressing heightened anxiety or panic when facing a fateful moment or decision or creating an impression of quickening pace can be achieved by an array of strategies. They include, paradoxically, both “stretching” and compressing the ratio between the presumed time of narration and the time of the events narrated, in addition to intensification at both the semantic and the syntactic level, judicious shifts in focalization, and the astute deployment of punctuation. The challenge of generating and shaping urgency in texts reflects a central concern of classical rhetoric and literary creation: vividness and a strong dynamic of emotional engagement both contribute to the reader’s experience of urgency.

Exploring particularly compelling examples from a range of texts, the presentation will point out crucial ways in which fictional urgency deviates from its real-life counterpart, especially as regards the experience and representation of time. Fictional urgency frequently challenges the boundaries of plausibility: special attention will be devoted to scenes of dying (in Shakespeare, Schiller, Poe, and others) and how they stage the tension that often arises between the inexorable approach of death, e.g. by poisoning, and the often lengthy speeches offered by the character about to expire.

Reasoned Decisions For Urgent Times

Steve Ostovich

How does one make critical decisions in urgent situations, that is, in those moments when one faces what William James described as a “genuine option”—living, momentous, and forced—in a context too complex to comprehend in our usual planning processes? This question has itself become urgent today judging by the development of new fields like innovation/disruption studies in business theory or the discipline of anticipation in future studies. We are struggling to avoid decisionism and the arbitrary exercise of power on the basis of the will, but our rational planning processes prove inadequate for directing our actions as those processes are disrupted. Disruption of the flow of time creates urgency by snipping the line of intentional reason in our planning.

This paper returns to James for inspiration in working through this question. It offers a reading of James’s “The Will to Believe” that pays attention to the role of time in thinking: “forced” is a matter of temporal urgency as well as of logic, while “living” and “momentous” indicate the existential quality of the decisions we face. The paper also will consider the religious context for James’s thinking and how thinking about religion might help us think about time, reason, and how reasonably to make decisions in urgent times. The limits of intentionality are not the limits of reason, and it is possible to remain critical in response to disruption.

Time’s paradox: geological and organizational perspectives

Alistair Bowden

This paper is inspired by Siccar Point (fig. 1), not far from Edinburgh, which is synonymous with James Hutton’s discovery of ‘deep time’ (Gould, 1987; McIntyre & McKirdy, 2012; Repcheck, 2004). This angular unconformity represents a time gap of approximately 60 million years.

Sequence stratigraphy, one of the most important theories in geology since plate tectonics, links sets of sediments bounded by unconformities (Vail 1977, Catuneanu et al, 2010). The ideal is that global changes in sea-level, for example a sudden fall of sea-level creating erosion where previously there had been deposition, will leave a clear signature in the rock record which can be correlated internationally, regardless of what rocks were being deposited or what fossils were entombed.

Sequence stratigraphy is a temporally interesting model, as it accommodates a series of paradoxical both/and conceptions of time:

· both discontinuous and continuous

· both linear and cyclic

· both gradual and punctuated

· both slows-down and speeds-up (linking to the theme of this conference).

My initial research was at the interface of micropalaeontology and sequence stratigraphy, exploring the nature of rapid environmental change on the evolution of a group of extinct, primitive vertebrates. My current ethnographic research explores the nature of strategic change in a hybrid organization, which is made up of private, public, charity and community representatives. My particular focus is how harmonious and dissonant competition between different institutional logics (Thornton et al, 2012), affect day-to-day actions and the emergence of strategy (Vaara & Whittington, 2012).

The aim of this paper is juxtapose my early and late phases of research – specifically, to utilise sequence stratigraphy as a metaphor to explore different and paradoxical conceptions of time, as strategy is developed in a complex organizational setting.

Epigenetics and Evolution: Is Darwin’s Natural Selection Exclusively Responsible for Adaptation to Urgent Needs?

Michael Crawford

“I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.”

Charles Darwin (Origin of Species)

Darwin’s explanation of natural selection as the mechanism that drives evolution is one of the most persuasive and successful scientific theories ever expounded, but even he wondered if other mechanisms might be at work.  We now know that environmental, competitive, and predatory pressures privilege the genes and traits that confer advantage, and that over long spans of time, a randomly mutating genome has the capacity to accommodate challenges.  Beneficial mutations permit individuals to reproduce and survive, while deleterious mutations go extinct. However, random mutations change a genome very slowly, and natural selection requires many generations for changes to be tested, to proliferate, and to consolidate within a population.  Recent advances suggest other mechanisms can provide adaptive tools. For example, epigenetics describes the way that organism-environment interactions alter the way that genomes behave.  Epigenetics, also referred to as genomic imprinting, changes the way that chromosomal regions and individual genes are packaged. By contrast to natural selection, this chromosomal re-packaging involves architectural changes that can record and adapt to urgent needs within a single lifespan. Some changes persist to prime offspring or subsequent generations to respond to similar chalenges. Gene behaviour - when and where they turn on or off, and by how much - is modified, but without altering DNA sequences.   Or are the sequences so immutable after all?  I will discuss, in lay terms, how epigenetics might affect DNA sequence integrity. I advance the hypothesis that there might be a mechanism for epigeneome/environment interactions to constrain when, where, and in which direction genomes changes, and therefore evolution, are modified. This has important implications for human evolution and development because epigenetic changes occur not merely as a consequence of environmental, but also of social cues: both are liable to be radically affected as we enter the Anthropocene.

Attention, Expectation, and Time

Carlos Montemayor

Conscious effort is associated with voluntary attention (Kahneman, 1973). Voluntary attention to duration seems to involve conscious effort, for instance, in cases when one explicitly counts seconds. It is clear from the empirical evidence, however, that the timing mechanisms for navigation across species, including humans, can estimate duration independently of voluntary attention. In fact, the distinction between the circadian system (on which invertebrates may mostly rely on) and the interval system shows that a significant portion of timing behavior must occur automatically and unconsciously, at least in invertebrates.

This issue becomes problematic if one thinks of the difference between the conscious experience of duration and the unconscious representations of simultaneity and duration that frame motor control and navigation in humans. One can pay attention to experienced duration and one can also pay attention exclusively to voluntary effort, and to the intensity of a sensation or emotion. The intensity of an emotion may alter the experience of duration: an intense pain seems to last longer than a mild one; the joy of seeing loved ones seems to shrink time. These may be purely introspective observations, but the question is what is the relation between these experiences and the timing mechanisms studied across species?

It would seem that attention to magnitudes (e.g., duration, distance or rate) differs from conscious attention to sensations and emotions, including effort. More specifically, attention to magnitudes happens implicitly in the motor-control system, for instance in cross-modal coordination. One way of characterizing this distinction between conscious and unconscious duration judgments is in terms of decision and experienced utility (Kahneman 2000). This paper provides a framework to conceptualize two senses of temporal coherence in utility judgments: one specified by simultaneity and temporal order and the other by conscious experiences and their qualitative character.

The Urgency of Time in James Joyce’s Ulysses

Stephanie Nelson

The importance of time in Ulysses appears immediately in the novel’s structure.  The book, set on a single day in Dublin, opens with the “Telemacheia,” a section consisting of three episodes that occur at 8:00, 10:00 and 11:00 am respectively.  The novel then shifts from Stephen Dedalus to Bloom, whose section begins with episodes occurring at 8:00, 10:00 and 11:00.  From this point on the episodes are located, regularly and pointedly, at noon, 1:00, 2:00 and so on, until, at a critical moment, there is an abrupt break. The break also reveals how attention to time refects the novel’s emotional core.  Bloom’s discovery at 8:00 am that his wife’s soon-to-be lover is coming to their home at 4:00 causes him to compulsively check the time.  At 4:00, however, the novel’s midpoint, where Joyce moves from an “initial style” to a series of stylistic experiments, the pattern breaks, marked by Bloom’s discovery, four hours later, that his watch stopped 4:30.  The stoppage, corresponding to Athena stopping time in the Odyssey, and accompanied by emerging gaps in the chronology of the novel, points to a critical change.  The urgency of time is now gone.  Bloom is now stretching out time, delaying his return home, a change marked as well by the ever-increasing length of the episodes. Joyce’s focus on mechanical measurements of time, centered in Bloom’s obsession with clocks, thus brings out a contrasting emotional experience of time as irregular and infused with meaning.  Similarly, the “irreversible time” (Ulysses 17.2025) that structures the novel sets off the characters’ (and the novel’s) free mental movement forward and backward through time.  Just as Joyce juxtaposes the actual historical detail of Dublin to his own fiction, and to his epic archetype, he puts a framework of regularly progressing “actual” time in dialogue with time as experienced, asking the reader to judge which of the two is more urgent.   

Time’s urgency and ethical decisions

Mauro Dorato

In decision theories and theories of human rationality, the problem of time plays a major role: in current societies communication becomes faster and faster, and we have to take an increasing number of important decisions in a very short amount of time. Consequently, decision makers like states, companies, or individuals have to take urgent decisions, in the sense that they have very little time to calculate the probabilities and the expected utility of different courses of action. On the one hand, this fact has led experts in decision theory to stress the importance of satisfactory heuristic strategies (satisficing) rather than optimizing strategies, which require too much time and are not suitable to our limited cognitive capacities (Simon). On the other hand cognitive scientists are giving more and more emphasis to the role of “feelings” (Gigerenzer) in reaching the right decision in a short amount of time. Not only are our emotions and bodily states necessary to decide (as Damasio’s work has shown) but they also help us to take a satisficing, urgent decision because they help us to quickly understand what matters for us in situations in which the amount of information is limited, and optimizing strategies would entail a waste of time and energy (bounded rationality). In my presentation I will discuss the problem of taking urgent decisions in light of the fact-value distinction, with particular attention to Gigerenzer’s work. In particular: does his approach constitute a violation of Hume’s famous rule “no ought from is”, and what are the consequence of this violation? Is Gigerenzer’s normative theory of ecological rationality an optimizing strategy in potential conflict with his identification of descriptive and normative accounts of mental processes leading to an urgent decision?

Time’s Urgent Delusion: Implications Of The Phenomenological Super-Symmetricality Of Sentience In Space-Time

P.A. Hancock and G.M. Hancock

I have previously argued that formal knowability is symmetrical in space-time (-----, 2013). That is, across an aggregate social experience the unknowability of the future replicates the uncertainty of the past. Super-symmetricality requires that this principle hold across all levels of living existence, as typified in the upper elements of Fraser’s conceptual hierarchy of time (see e.g., Fraser, 1987). Phenomenological differences from this aggregate principle derive only from the idiographic experience of the individual and, powerful and seductive as this personal autobiographical narrative appears, it is only a hubristic illusion. In essence, we are all bound by our own finite physicality. Furthermore, graphic representations of this traditional, accepted, and generally unquestioned narrative provide strong support for time, in what has periodically been asserted to be an a priori of existence. Thus, “life cell” illustrations, set in Minkowski’s space-time framework, necessarily emphasize critical individual events such as birth, now, and death but undervalue the social aggregate upon which the conception of time was first founded (see Moray & -----, 2009;  Shaw & Kinsella-Shaw, 1988). Here, I go beyond even this notion of a socially aggregated and probabilistic perspective and argue more radically that time itself is a fabricated but urgent delusion. When Russell (1915) sought to address some temporal conundrums advanced by McTaggart (1908), his solution was to differentiate subject (i.e., living entity) from object (i.e., non-living entity). This initial, and I argue flawed differentiation, lies at the heart of Fraser’s subsequent further division of temporality into a highly influential hierarchical representation. In this work I shall argue (contra Schrodinger) that life occupies no such privileged position and the concept of, and thus the nature of time derives from this undeserved elevation. Thus while Russell resolved some of the challenges posed by McTaggart, he did so by extracting and reifying sentience beyond simple material duration. I shall articulate how the problem of time dissolves when we depose this tyrannical monarchy of consciousness.

Eternal Recursion, the Emergence/y of Metaconsciousness, and the Imperative for Closure

Jo Alyson Parker and Tom Weissert

                         I had a whole day to repeat, but I didn’t have enough time when I needed it.

–– Hiroshi Sakurazaka

In life, we get no do-overs; we cannot reset the program. In our fictions, however, we regularly return to the motif of the do-over, in modes ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the absurdly comedic film Groundhog Day to Kate Atkinson’s stunning novel Life after Life.  Drawing on the aforementioned texts, as well as the telefilms 12:01 and “Cause and Effect,” Ken Grimwood’s novel Replay, and Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need is Kill and its film incarnation Edge of Tomorrow, we explore an accretion of knowledge that survives into further iterations of a timeloop (a metaconsciousness), which is  motivated by an urgency for closure and which ultimately enables the loop to be broken.

Actual looping backwards in time obviously does not occur in life, but a hallmark of our humanity is the “mental time travel” (Corbalis 2014, 100) in which we engage, inserting previous experience into present awareness. Moreover, we often consider our previous experience in light of alternative possibilities, the roads not taken.  As J. T. Fraser has noted, “the idea of a freedom of choice with limitations” may have “originated in the recognition that the paths of action one could have taken in the past were, usually, more numerous than the single path one actually did take” (2007, 237).  Our human desire to consider alternative paths is driven by a concurrent desire to “finally [. . .] get it right” (Atkinson 2013, 446). In many of the texts we examine, the desire to get it right drives the narratives, the urgency amplifying with each successive movement through the loops. The “time as conflict” between endless looping and narrative closure—for both the protagonists and the readers/viewers who follow their plights—leads to the emergence of the metaconsciousness.

« Festina lente »: making the essence of Kronos palpable by man’s plans to use time in Stanley Kubrick’s noir film The Killing (1956).

Raphaelle Costa de Beauregard

Mechanistic coldness and human endeavour undone by greed and deceit overlap in the complex time structure of Kubrick’s noir film The Killing (1956). A complex series of flashbacks introduce and explain the characters, while the time structure creates a synchronous view of simultaneous events. Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), an ex-con, tells his sweetheart Fay (Coleen Gray) that he and a few others are going to make “a big score” that will be his last caper. During a race at the local racetrack he intends to rob the money room where the betting take is kept while a professional killer is to shoot one of the horses to create a diversion. Everything is planned down to the smallest detail within the short time span of the diversion. But his associates are unprofessional thieves who have personal problems and things go wrong.

In this tightly woven plot, time looks at first as if it were only a human invention: it is manipulated by the characters who see it as the instrument which will make their dream come true. And yet, despite the characters’ plans to observe the Latin motto “Festina lente”, “Make haste slowly”, time remains elusive and uncontrollable, as if it truly existed in the physical world and obeyed its own secret rules. When this material time eventually becomes a palpable presence, it appears to have been the true agent of the action. Film-viewers are made to feel and understand the paradoxes of time’s urgency in this tragedy which relies on our growing awareness of both the impersonal ‘grinding’ of time’s gears, and the human emotions which rule ‘subjective’ time images.

The experience of time as indicator of self-disorders

Marc Wittmann

Strong empirical evidence exists for the association between mental disorders and subjective time. Patients with various psychiatric diagnoses – i.e. patients with anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, drug dependence, etc. overestimate the duration of time intervals, they are strongly present oriented and have a less pronounced future perspective. The literature on time perception in psychopathology, however, is not unequivocal and needs a better theoretical foundation. Here, a theoretical background of concepts and methods of time perception is developed which could lead to an empirically based notion of the association between an altered sense of time and disorders of the (bodily) self. That is, over the last few years a novel idea regarding the neural basis of time perception has been developed. Based on empirical evidence, this conceptual framework suggests that physiological changes of the body, the basis of our feeling states, form an internal signal to encode the duration of external events in the time range of several seconds. FMRI neuroimaging studies have shown how increasing neural activity in the posterior insular cortex is related to the processing of temporal intervals in the multiple-seconds range. Given the close connection between the insula and ascending body signals, it is possible that the accumulation of physiological changes constitutes our experience of time. Moreover, it has been shown how the influence of affective states on time perception depends upon the embodiment of emotions. That is, on a basic level, the bodily self, as created by the continuous visceral input from the body, is the functional anchor of phenomenal experience of a self – and of subjective time. Based on this conceptualization psychopathological disorders can be understood as impairments of the self and of subjective time.

Urgency in the Historical Record: When is the Time to Know Our Past?

Katherine Sibley

This paper builds on work I presented earlier to the ISST regarding the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Relations historical documentation series (FRUS).   Whereas I focused then on the linkage between timeliness and transparency in furtherance of a principled U.S. foreign policy in broad terms, I explore now the role of urgency in promoting an ethical American foreign relations in a specific case: the U.S. role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960-61.   As J.T. Fraser has noted, “it is the socially held evaluation of history and of the nature of time that gives rise to ethical systems in the first place.” I will argue here for the importance of an element of urgency in historical evaluation, suggesting that delays in exposing the U.S. covert action in Congo hindered an ethical approach.

In 2009, President Barack Obama specified that “no information may remain classified indefinitely.”   But the Congo intervention, like some other chapters in American foreign relations, remained secret a half-century later, with CIA involvement in enabling the assassination of leader Patrice Lumumba, an anti-colonialist who was suspected of “Commie influence,” only murkily understood.  When the Congo volume was at last published in 2013, one scholar noted that the “CIA programs of the 1960s distorted Congolese politics for decades” causing “resentment and suspicion” in Africa toward the U.S.   A more urgent emphasis on exposure, by contrast, could have earlier mitigated misunderstanding and furthered historical evaluation of this ethically dubious intervention, thus creating opportunities for an enhanced U.S. relationship with Congo, and Africa as a whole—as well as other countries affected by such historic covert operations .

Why we are not alarmed (enough) by global environmental threats?
Psychological barriers to environmental behavior

Nurit Carmi

There is a consensus among scientists that global warming and climate change pose a severe, unprecedented and imminent threat to the continued existence of humanity. However, individuals and societies do not seem to be alarmed in the extent that is expected from a threat of this magnitude and dimensions. Since the reason for global warming is anthropogenic, as agreed by top climate scientists, also mitigation of this threat must come from human initiative, namely; from a change in the environmental behavior of individuals. In the lecture I shall present studies that were done in order to better understand humans' indifference to many environmental threats in an emphasis on identifying the psychological barriers to environmental behavior. I will review studies in which we found similarity between the dilemma of whether to act or not to act in an environment-friendly manner and the temporal and social dilemmas embodied in the tragedy of the commons. I will show that global environmental problems have unique characteristics, that do not exist in any other kind of existential problems or threats and that these characteristics do not allow humans to grasp the urgency needed in responding to them. I will present findings indicating that the difficulty of changing people's environmental behavior is due not only to lack of knowledge about the significance of their behavioral choices, but also to the existence of cognitive, emotional and motivational barriers. I suggest that these psychological barriers impede the perception of the severity and imminence of global environmental threats, resulting in undervalued assessment of the urgency in taking immediate action to prevent or reduce the detrimental consequences of environmental degradation. Finally, I will present what the field of environmental psychology can offer to deal with the lack of urgency that accompanies the perception of the global climate crisis.

Facing the eternal desert:  sociotemporal values in Old English poetry.

Rosemary Huisman

When I first read the theme of this year's conference, "Time's Urgency", I was irresistibly reminded of Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress", in particular of the words: But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near.

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

And these words, despite the impudent intent of their context, led me to think of poetry, English poetry, more generally. How have poets responded to that urgency, in which their presence in present time moves inexorably towards an absence, which is not future but rather out-of-time? What comfort - if there is comfort - do they find?

And so to Beowulf. This is one of the great poems in the English language, yet it speaks to us not only in an English very different from our own, but also of a cultural context very different. I say "of", rather than "in", because the poet - in at least the written down version we have - differentiates his own culture from that of the poem's people. They were heathen people; they were ignorant of the poet's God. Given that most Anglo-Saxon writing was done in the monastic scriptorium, it's unsurprising that most Old English poetry purveys the values of the acquired religion. But - as in the building of Christian churches over pagan temples - the new poetic values are written over the old. And despite the different "solutions," I would argue that the values of a culture are strongly motivated by its need to respond to its consciousness of "the urgency of time".

In this paper, focusing primarily on the poem Beowulf but with reference to other Old English poetry, I want to explore this contention on the relation of social value and time.

Beyond the Newtonian Time: between Spinoza and Whitehead, it is urgent to choose!

Rémy Lestienne

Philosophers since long ago and scientists more recently question the Newtonian time: continuous, indefinite, indifferent to things and life alike. Departing from the middle age image of angels rolling the big wheel of the cosmos in front of the benevolent eternal Father, many scientists are now attracted by the natural philosophy of Spinoza, particularly because it breaks off the Cartesian dualism and sets up an universal determinism.

Is however the Spinozist vision of time adequate to account for all the attributes of this notion? Like the Plato’s time (for whom the planets’ motion is a moving image of eternity), that of Spinoza itself is a subsidiary of eternity. The fundamental notion of Spinoza’s natural philosophy is that of conatus, which may be seen as a “prime mover”. But its power is limited. Primarily it is the power of things and living beings to persist in their existence, although it can sometimes help the wish to expand one’s own power. The time of women and men is a creation of mind; not a substance, its contingence attribute alluded to by humankind is a mere illusion.

At first sight, Whitehead’s time is developed from a similar base. Like Spinoza and after Plato, Whitehead believes in the assembly of eternal objects. But Whitehead does not use the term “time”, or that of “conatus”. His central notion seems to be that of concrescence. We could say that for him time is the permanent rolling in succession of creative acts. It is not continuous; however the continuity of existence is built in. It consists in the successive consolidation of the world sceneries. It leaves room for the contingence of things, and the human mind plays a role in it (in this sense Whitehead seems to owe to Kant). Such a vision is suggestive of the Copenhagen school of Quantum Mechanics’ vision, for which the world scenery as seen by us is the continuous succession of reduction of wave packets. And the concrescence of various things under their natural power of prehension seems to allow for a new understanding of the mysteries of intrication. Finally, at the level of signal transmission, it led Whitehead to develop an alternative theory to General Relativity, for which experimental tests are currently investigated.

Today. 24 Hours in Contemporary Arts

Antonella Sbrilli 

A day, according to dictionary definition, is each of the 24 hour periods, reckoned from one midnight to the next. During this period, the Earth rotates on its axis and our circadian clock (from Latin circa, around and dies, day) makes our bodies adapt to these 24-hours rythms.

The dimensions of great and small, of global and local meet themselves in the frame of the day, today: hoc die, this day is the temporal measure indicating a portion of present that we can (try to) control and visualize in calendars, diaries, organizers, social networkstimelines.


Artists have always been engaged with the experience of today, focusing on calendar (Alighiero Boetti, On Kawara, Hanne Darboven), planetsmovements (Olafur Eliasson, Katie Paterson), political aspects of time measures (William Kentridge, Julieta Aranda), daily personal rituals (Sophie Calle, Vanessa Beecroft), real time(Christian Marclay, Richard Linklater), durée (Douglas Gordon). Waving from chronophobia (from the title of a study by Pamela M. Lee, MIT Press 2006) to chronophilia, recent artworks dealing with a day (video, installations, events, artist books, objects, performances, assemblages, participatory experiences) testify continuity and changes in our consciousness of today.

The paper presents some examples of recent artworks dealing with this item, some of them coming from the exhibition Dall'oggi al domani. 24 ore nell'arte contemporanea, currently in Rome, Macro Museum (April-October 2016, ed. Sbrilli and Tolomeo).

Is it possibile to stay 3 days observing what happens when nothing happens as Georges Perec in October 1974 in Paris, Place Saint-Sulpice, writing Tentative d’épuisement dun lieu parisien? Or we are so urged to pay attention to plenty of information and input coming from digital devices and environment that the perception of a day is transformed?

The presentation will be accompanied by the participatory experience Find the Time

Participants will be invited – during the Conference’s days - to discover and capture on their cameras/phones art works dealing with the concept of Time in Edinburgh (i. e. National Galleries of Scotland) in order to build a virtual bottom-up thematic exhibition.

Temporalization of ethical becoming in intersubjective relation

Irina Polshchuk

The sense of the self is deeply connected to the relation with the other person.  The temporal event of the other appealing to subjectivity questions the self, identity and its locus. I believe that temporality of intersubjective relation is a foundational principal, which changes and constructs the ethical self of subjectivity. The work of impression and affection describe the self as present and continuous, as sensible, embodied and localized subjectivity able to enjoy and to dwell in the world. However, affection and primal impression also question and modify subjectivity into delayed, torn up from its temporal continuity, traumatized and structured as one-for-the-other. There is a particular form of sensibility present in the self that designs time as ‘mine’ but also initiates a movement from the interiorized and punctuated self towards dephasing subjectivity born from the appeal of the other person.   

My primal concern is to analyze a transition from the synchronized self, initiated by the work of auto-affection, to the ethical self rooted in heteronomous affection. Addressing philosophy of E. Levinas and M. Henry I argue that the sensible self is presented in temporal continuity as enjoying, dwelling, experiencing pain, hunger, desire; the sensible self is synchronized and interiorized, but also is susceptible and able to respond. The address of the other person displaces the sensible self, questions its time as continuity of present and eventually dephases the self by shifting it from itself.  My main claim is that the affection indicates a temporal dephasing that is diachrony provoking a discontinuity inside temporalizing self-affecting subjectivity. This dephasing gives an origin to the ethical becoming of the self: it is torn apart, displaced, also shifted from its cognitive position and it manifests as traumatized sensibility, it is the self insofar as it is the one-for-the-other.

The Lacanian Short Session and the Temporal Urgency of the Unconscious

Mary Schmelzer

The Lacanian short session, seen in no small way a scandal in American psychoanalytic practice, perhaps points to some of the divergences on the position of the unconscious in Freudian topography.

The short session, one that can be broken by the analyst at any moment as she isolates the emergence of unconscious. That can occur within two minutes of its onset, two hours into a session, or, not infrequently, not at all.  The analyst is trained to listen only for the unconscious to appear in errors, slips, jokes, misprisions, or inappropriate emotion. The real work begins when the conscious “you “  is tricked into ceding pride of place.

Lacan calls himself an authentic Freudian adhering to “the talking cure” through the lens of Saussurean structural linguistics that posits the empty, arbitrary and contextual quality of all sign systems, language in particular. He allocates to the unconscious an equal place with the conscious in the human psyche despite the temporal hegemony of the claimed conscious choices that delimit a person’s negotiation of the quotidian. Vanilla or chocolate is much more than vanilla or chocolate, and a cigar if it makes its way into a session is hardly ever a smoke.  

Lacan claims the time of the session for the unconscious functions on a different temporal register from clock time, and in so doing, disavows the accepted fifty minute hour. At the same time, since paying for a session is crucial to the work, and unconscious operations have no inherent exchangeable currency, the Lacanian analyst sets traditional prices on a session that has very non-traditional temporal boundaries. That is to say, the shape of the session is set to encourage the urgent emergence of unconscious. It makes sense that this is a challenge to traditional practice because it does not make sense. When it makes no sense at all, the unconscious is in charge, and if one can argue that unconscious is always in charge, it calls dollars as well as sense into question.

I hope that my paper, seriously playful as I intend, can tease us out of thought.

Laches: You’re Not Out of Time, But You Are Out of Luck

George Sibley

 “Laches” is a legal term, of French origin, meaning “remissness; slackness” according to Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed.). The lawyer’s shorthand for it is  “sleeping on one’s rights,” but it’s more than that. An earlier Black’s defines it as the lapse of time together with prejudice to the adverse party. Laches is in parallel to statutes of limitations, the set period the law allows for a claimant to bring his or her suit or be barred from ever doing so. Yet with laches nothing is set.  For instance: Snooks operates a taxi company with cabs of distinctive colors, red and black. Bilbo sets up a rival cab line in the same city, with the same colors. Snooks seethes at this copy-cat upstart. He’s busy, though, with the business, and knows the law gives him six years to sue Bilbo. So he carries on with his own cabs as Bilbo increases his fleet and his following. Finally, after four years Snooks brings suit against Bilbo seeking to have the latter change his cabs’ colors from red and black. But Bilbo successfully pleads laches, saying that during the passing years he’s invested much in his taxi business and to make him change its colors would be unfair. The statute of limitations had years to run; still the invocation of laches defeated Snooks; he was too late . Under the letter of the law one may have plenty of time left to act, but no - circumstances have changed and the other party has altered the facts on the ground – you’ve lost out.

My talk would deal with time (the statute of limitations) as opposed to the vagaries of life (laches). You have your mind on the calendar and fail to keep your eye on the ball. One of the possible topics listed is “philosophies of time’s urgency.” Time is urgent, but here it’s not time that controls as the time passes, rather it’s the events.  

Time's urgency: an 'iron cage' of the organizational life?

Paul Peigné

In a globalized and complex socioeconomic world, organizations have to deal with the unforeseeable requirements of their environments. But meeting them is not enough, minimizing the time to (re)act is also claimed to gain or preserve some specific advantage.

However is this time's urgency always justified? Does this temporal over-rationalization have some limits? In other words, could it expose the organization to some counterproductive effects?

To illustrate our point, we present a case study about a postal company having to adapt its process to the new regulations of its markets. Deploying the change program on a tight schedule to meet the regulatory deadline, paradoxical injunctions, misunderstandings and dissatisfaction spread. Giving rise to chaos and confusion that daily undermine the efforts to change, the time's urgency seems here to fuel its own resistance.

From a theoretical point of view, despite many calls in organizational studies to take time into account more accurately, this concept is often still taken for granted as an implicit framework of action.

But nowadays t ime is for many organizations more than an implicit framework. As a scarce resource, it is often over-exploited because the organizational and human consequences of time's urgency are not yet well understood.

From our point of view, our case illustrates a relevant example about how much the permanent quest to increase the pace for action can become a trap for human organizations in which time's urgency plays the role of an 'iron cage'.

In studying some of its deleterious consequences, maybe time's urgency could be a good trigger to point out the urgency to consider time as a relevant and sensitive variable to complete our understanding of the social dynamics.

The Urgency Illusion

Nicholas Tresilian

“Markets, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law  are all in simultaneous acceleration.”  (Thomas L Friedland,’The World is FAST’.  Oxford Martin  School  of the Future, Sheldonian Lecture, April 27, 2015.)

The world is FAST and getting FASTER was Thomas Friedlnd’s thesis at the Sheldonian lecture. Time’s urgency in all its forms was on the increase. There were no limits in sight

This paper  argues that the  present widely-shared sense of time’s urgency is the compelling but temporary  product of the clash of two competing   time-regimes in our present world.  The first is about our species’ shared experience of  divergence from a common past during the Industrial Revolution. The second is about convergence on a common present in the post-Industrial age.

If the first is FAST the second is SLOW. The mutual interference of the two co-evolutionary  regimes generates Urgency-illusion – the sense of a time which is volatile, directionless yet all-consuming.

The author has always argued for the co-evolutionary nature of the relationship between visual art and ecological evolution. The paper draws liberally on imagery from  the Venice Biennale of 2015 to show that same phase transition from fast time to slow time is reciprocated in contemporary visual art.

As  in a cinematic lap-dissolve, painting and sculpture ‘fading out’ and installation and contextual art ‘fading in’ .  In the process  the aesthetic object is mutating creatively  into the rite of passage.

The volatile centrepoint of this great cultural gyration is what has become known as Conceptual art, its evanescent images quantum-mechanically  indeterminate between ‘particle’ and ‘wave’

Facing the Urgency of Time the Folk-tale Way

Mary Helen Kashuba

“Once upon a time. . .”  “Il y avait une fois. . . » «Жил-был » are often the introductory time designations in folk-tales or fairy tales.  They take place in a well-defined sphere, usually a home, involve a journey, often through a forest, and find their resolution in a safe haven.  These popular tales address universal themes, such as fantasy, rites of passage, historical considerations, and spiritual connotations.  Time is an ever-present reality, and the urgency of time is a relatively unexplored aspect of numerous fairy tales.  Vladimir Propp (“Morphology of the Folktale”) analyzes the elements of a tale to include a difficult task.  Other important aspects are the absence of a parent, and the lack of a necessity, such as money, a spouse, or a child.  The tales imply an aggressor, a donor or helper, a solution, and a reward.  It is in the “difficult task” that we find the urgency of time. The hero or heroine must complete a task within a deadline or face dire consequences, even death.  In this paper, we will explore tales that span several geographic areas, yet maintain the urgency of time as a crucial issue.  We will focus on the conflict that ensues as the hero faces the crisis, and determine how he or she solves the issue.  Normally this involves several, usually three, challenges.  In the Rumplestiltskin, Baba Yaga, and Hansel and Gretel tales, the hero and heroine develop their skills at each stage, thus illustrating Fraser’s idea of creative conflicts.   Often there is a helper, as in the Cinderella cycle, where the heroine must also enter into the challenge in order to succeed.  Sometimes the hero does not heed the helper, as in Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf.  He eventually learns, for it is only by using wit and cunning along with collaboration that one can rise to the next level and eventually solve the issue at hand.  Finally, we will explore the relevance of these conflicts as they address the urgency of time in today’s society, among them the threat of terrorism, child abuse, and identity theft.

Entangling Urgency, Evolution and Culture in the Anthropocene

Robert Daniel

"Urgency" implies interrelated notions suggesting pressure (or compulsion), linked to a call for attention (or a call for action). From a certain perspective, there are obvious urgencies on Earth in the early twenty-first century, as a result of ongoing human deeds that are rapidly diminishing biodiversity, depleting finite resources and radically and destructively modifying climate and environment worldwide -- the geosphere and the biosphere -- in ways that endanger most forms of life, including humanity. On the other hand, if one takes a certain "long view" characterized by scientific impartiality -- the neo-Darwinian evolutionary view -- the situation I describe implies no urgency at all. That is, the intellectual pressure or emotional compulsion that arises from a keen desire to assure the survival of particular individuals or species does not come to bear. There is no "call for action," since evolution as a long-term process needs no corrective action or outside intervention. Evolution is not erroneous or faulty. It simply is. If humans, through concerted social/political/economic acts, eliminate their own species and others, then it becomes clear that humans are evolutionarily inferior to whatever non-human species survive and persist under the radically changed conditions visited upon the planet by human society.

The presentation I propose for ISST 2016 will explore the tension I have evoked, looking at disparate theoretical or fictional models for reconciling the evolutionary view with a human-redeeming sense of urgency and mission, manifested in culture. I will draw on the the intellectual work of J. T. Fraser, obviously, but also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Richard Dawkins, E. O. Wilson, Susan Blackmore (The Meme Machine, 1999), the now-defunct online Journal of Memetics, Marion Blute ( Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution , 2010), Gerhard Lenski (Ecological-Evolutionary Theory, 2005), Martha Nussbaum (Creating Capabilities, 2011) and the "Culture" novels of Iain Banks.

The maxim periculum est in mora in the continental European legal tradition

Andreas Thier

Law can create urgency of time by setting periods, terms or similar deadlines. But modern law also assimilates notions of time urgency by granting specific remedies for these situations particularly in the field of procedure. It appears, however, that time urgency as specific subject of legal discourse is a comparatively young phenomenon at least in European legal history. Even though there were always traces in legal sources referring for example to the angustia temporis (narrowness of time), usually however in the context of legal periods, time urgency became apparently only since the 17th century a subject of jurisprudential debate. Since that time, the maxim periculum est in mora (danger in delay), basically expressed by the Roman historian Livy (ca. 59 BC-17 AD; Ab urbe condita, 38.25), emerged as topic of several jurisprudential treatises and also as argument in European learnt law until the late 18th century. The suggested paper shall discuss these approaches and trace their evolution particularly in German speaking legal discourses. It shall be argued that the slow rise of the maxim periculum est emptoris might be a reflection of emerging perceptions of temporal acceleration within legal thinking, which would become a dominant theme in 20th and 21st legal debates.

Pinter’s Pauses

Carol Fischer

The plays of Harold Pinter are infused with a sense of urgency through the author’s terse, biting dialogue with what seem to be carefully chosen pauses.  These cessations of sound and movement are not empty or restful, but raise the blood pressure in both the actors and the audience.  A “Pinter pause” conjures up a certain style and expectation because of the plethora of productions of Pinter’s works over the past four decades as well as of the plays of those whom were influenced by Pinter (such as Sam Shepard).  The “pause” in the phrase has been regularly analyzed looking at the language, and sometimes critiqued through spatial use of the stage, but not with any significant conversation including time. I propose to speak to this phenomenon in his plays, exploring how it works in production and in script reading from the perspective of time and timing. How do these pauses help create the sense of sinister consciousness that so often controls the situation?

In a conference on stage design, I recently heard someone say, “nothing can happen unless it happens somewhere,” leading into a discussion of the necessities of stage and set design. I would add that nothing can happen unless it happens when as well. Pinter’s plays are less concerned with the where than the when, and focusing on his timing could lead to new perspective and insight regarding Pinter’s works.

Psychological time and late life depression

Lika Mikeladze

In recent years the number of works dedicated to the construct of time perspective (TP) has increased considerably. Among the widely used instruments devised to measure TP is the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) which measures major five temporal orientations – Past Positive, Past Negative, Present Hedonistic, Present Fatalistic and Future. The characteristics of TP in elderly people have been investigated in several works. Nevertheless, the features of TP in late life mental diseases have not yet been studied. The actuality of such research is determined by the increase of the risk of depression in late life. Moreover, the time perception deficit is typical for depression. In this regard, we investigated the experience of the past, the present and the future in elderly depressed people.

The ZTPI was administered to a sample of 48 people aged between 50 and 80 years old who were under the treatment in the Mental Health Research Center of RAMS and to a control group of 26 healthy people aged 50–81. According to the hypothesis, the most apparent tendencies in late life depression would be the pessimistic attitude toward the past and the fatalistic attitude toward the present; the future orientation would be low in both groups.

The results confirmed the first hypothesis. It also demonstrated that in depression the present wasn’t associated with satisfaction, the future orientation was low. Contrary to the second hypothesis, healthy elderly people were highly future oriented.

In conclusion, our results shed new light on the problem of TP in late life: the characteristics of TP in elderly people sharpen in late life depression, lowers the index of positive emotionality. The high future orientation in healthy people seems to be one of the indexes of the ability to cope with life changes and one of the predictors of psychological wellbeing.

Urgent Changes of Sleep-Wake Schedules in Japan and the Problems of Modern Light Environment; Cultural and Engineering Review of the Changes in this Millennium

Emi Koyama

In modern Japanese society, sleep-wake schedules change greatly in a recent half-century. First, until around 1970 after the World War II, the whole sleep-wake schedule showed more than one-hour phase delay. Then, until around 2000, bedtime was further delayed, and additionally in the next 10 years, wake-up time is advanced a little. As a result, sleep time has become shorter per decade since 1970 in Japan. Abrupt changes in sleep-wake schedules have caused serious and urgent problems such as damaging the health, increase of the accident, and lowering of intellectual activity. It is supposed that changes of not only social circumstances but also light environment, that brings physiological arousal effects, have given some influence. In this study, the historical changes of sleep-wake schedules and artificial light from around thousand years ago are reviewed, and the problems of modern light environment that lead to urgent changes of sleep-wake schedules are discussed. In order to evaluate sleep-wake schedules and artificial light before modern times, expressions for sleep-wake and light environment are analyzed using the Heian classical literatures such as “the Tale of Genji” and “The Diary of Lady Murasaki”. Results show the possibility that the people wake up and start activity on the astronomical twilight in a thousand years ago. However, bedtime is indistinct and the people may not always go to sleep immediately after sunset. In those days, artificial light is the light emission using vegetal oil. From the measurement of the optical properties in the reproduced illumination tool, nighttime indoor illuminance in the modern society is supposed to become more than 1000 times as bright as that before a thousand years. In addition, blue light component in the spectral distribution has increased. It shows the possibility that natural sleep is disturbed by excessive nocturnal light in modern society.

The Timeless Theory and Modal Realism

Shinya Tsubai

There seems to be a general agreement that the concept of time is problematic in Cosmological theory and Philosophy of science. Many physicists, including Hawking, Hartle, Rovelli, and Barbour, have argued that time cannot play an essential role in the formulation of the quantum gravity theory. In particular, the argument that time can be eliminated from fundamental statements of the laws or the principles of the physical theory, and that time therefore does not exist metaphysically has been put forward in its strongest form to date by Julian Barbour. Barbour presented a thorough thought that time is an illusion by noting that the Wheeler-DeWitt equation yields the non-existence of time in spite of our experiences of flowing time.

As Butterfield noted, Barbour’s denial of time that there are only inter-particle distances without temporal dimension and that the actual world is a single point in all possible relative configuration space‘Platonia’charting the space of possibility can be thought of as the combination of presentism (according to which only the present exists)  with Lewis’s full-blown modal realism (according to which all possible worlds are as real as the actual world) at a glance, even though there are many physical or metaphysical differences between Barbour’s view and Lewis’s modal realism.

However, the timeless theory is neither presentism nor eternalism (according to which the past, present and future are all exist), whereas there are some partial points of similarity respectively. On the contrary, the timeless theory, especially Barbour’s theory, is the modification of modal realism and is the best way to unite the two dominant models of temporal ontology (presentism/eternalism). And furthermore, it has metaphysical implication that makes a denial of identities of substances and indicates a discrete outlook on the world.

The temporal compression of digital photography practices: implications for individual and social memory.

Tim Fawns

The pre-digital production, distribution and consumption of photographs generally happened at relatively discrete and distinct moments in time. Photos were taken, then developed, then collected, then shown to other people, then put away in an album, box or other physical space. Now, for those with access to digital technology, these practices are being both extended and - mostly - compressed. Consumption happens immediately after production when we look at photos on the camera, disrupting established rituals of anticipation and rehearsal and enabling new processes of experimentation and re-taking. This is often quickly followed by global distribution, and a photo can be seen across the world before it is seen by people in the physical location where it was taken. Automatic functions (e.g. auto-uploading) can compress things even further by simultaneously producing and distributing.

This compression of photographic practice breaks down barriers that have historically acted as filters. A key consequence is an explosion in the number of photographs in our collections. We have difficulty finding the time to organise our photographs as traditional, memorial functions of photography are increasingly replaced by immediate, communicative ones. The resulting rapid proliferation of digital copies leads to complications of control, privacy and context.

This paper locates my own and others’ empirical research around digital photography practices within contemporary psychological theories of episodic memory. The application of these theories provides a lens through which to discuss potential implications of the temporal compression of digital photography practices for the construction of individual and social memory and identity. The aim is to give us a new way of understanding what is captured by the camera and what happens after the shutter closes.

From time’s urgency to the politics of timing

Andrew R. Hom

Few domains of experience manifest urgency more than global politics. From cascades of foreign relations crises, to major or endless wars, to the novel problem of climate change, urgency runs through global politics and its study. In the past fifteen years, politics scholars have also taken an interest in time and temporality. Therefore, the notion of ‘time’s urgency’ is a critical avenue for understanding contemporary global dilemmas. In particular, several recent works have focused on the promise and/or perils of accelerated social exchanges and the global ‘now’ for political processes such as democracy, deliberation, and conflict. As insightful as these works are, they all omit the crucial component of timing. Mobilizing Norbert Elias’s social theory of timing, I unpack and compare various political arguments about time’s urgency to show that seemingly diverging temporalities spring from common issues of political timing—different ‘voices of time’ are really about contrasting ‘choices in timing’. Like any dilemma, the politics of time’s urgency presents alternative paths, but these are all connected by the common problems of social control, novel change, and freedom. From this perspective, it is not that time is accelerating, but rather that we are trying to time faster and faster (and further and further). Time possesses no intrinsic urgency; instead, urgency is derivative of the relationship between a chosen timing standard and the changes to which it pertains. Finally, invoking ‘urgent’ in the first place represents a politicizing move motivated by an underlying—and often hidden—timing concern. Focusing on the timing modes, standards, and goals behind constructions of temporal urgency thereby helps not only to explain how such ‘times’ come into being but also to clarify their reliance on power politics; the ideas, interests, and social agents elevated or subordinated by them; and how they close down an open future.

Now and Eternity: A Comparative Philosophical Study

Jeeloo Liu

What is now and do we know that the current moment is the objective now? According to the presentist, all that exists is the present.  Furthermore, what is now to us is the objective now since it is at the boundary between existence (present) and non-existence (future).  However, B theorists argues that since we have no independent access to the future that does not exist, we cannot know that we are truly at the boundary of existence.  There is an intrinsic epistemic limitation to our knowing that we are in the objective present.  B theorists take ‘now’ to be a self-reflexive term that is indexical to the moment of an utterance or a thought.  No present moment is the objective now.  In that case, no ‘now’ is really the privileged now, and there are no metaphysically significant differences between past, present, and future.  The debate seems to come to a stalemate: presentism cannot answer the challenge of our epistemic limitation, but on the other hand, the rejection of presentism leads to the implausible view of eternalism, according to which past, present, and future have equal ontological status and the universe is a static block.  This paper will introduce conceptions of now and eternity in Confucian, Daoist and Chinese Buddhist perspectives from such a comparative angle.  From the Chinese perspective, eternity is never static; rather, it is characterized by the eternal flow of change .  Confucianism takes “now” to be relative to a field of action rather than to points of particular utterances.  The now has its urgency in terms of the action that needs to be taken for that time frame.  Now has a paramount, irreplaceable significance for human affairs.  Daoism takes eternity to be the frame of reference, and from that perspective, every “now” is a transient, impermanent, insignificant moment, passing on “in the twinkling of an eye.”  Chinese Buddhism embraces now as part of eternity.  Every moment of now constitutes the causal chain for eternity, and thus, every now has its lasting causal influence. Past, present and future are of equal ontological status under the Buddhist view, but only the present is what matters in terms of causal efficacy. 

Temporal Em-urgency!
An Existential Face-Off with Being-Towards-Death

Lanei Rodemeyer

Dasein is Being-towards-Death, according to Heidegger. We spend our lives striving toward our possibilities—until all possibilities stop. Beyond life, behind the meanings that we create, we find: nothing. This is the reason existentialism is accused of being so negative, nihilistic. However, most existentialist philosophers, including Heidegger, find the finality of death and the nothingness that lies behind it to be evidence for our absolute freedom; free from any essential meanings about ourselves or our existence, we should rejoice.

When I first read the existentialists—in my 20s—I found their discussion of nothingness, of death as the finality of any meaning, to be the ecstatic release from essential truths that they meant it to be. But now I’m not 20 anymore. The march of time—toward my own death—is making itself known, and I don’t find much solace in Heidegger’s recommendation of “authentic resoluteness” or Sartre’s “humanism”.

Does time, especially when understood from the perspective of experienced time—and thus time as a human experience—necessarily dump us off into a void of nothingness? The existentialists owe me some (better) answers…

And they provide them—in terms of alternate understandings of time: Nietzsche’s (in)famous “eternal return” is usually understood as a moral challenge, but it is also a suggestion about time itself, i.e., cyclical time. Camus’ The Myth of Sysiphus also points to repetition and cycles as a response to the emptiness we find in death. In fact, much earlier than either of these authors, Plato writes in his Timeaus of a demi-urge—a storyteller whose name implies urgency—who suggests that time is merely “the moving image of eternity”. This moving image, moreover, is cyclical.

So cyclical time is one possible response to the urgency we feel as death appears to move closer. But there is another, namely, the glimpse of eternity we gain in Heidegger’s “Augenblick” (“Moment-of-Vision”, literally, the “blink of an eye”) and in Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith”.

Finally, we have Sartre, whose philosophy could be understood as another response—even another type of eternity: According to Sartre, we are the nothing ourselves. As temporal beings, we are continually, essentially, and incessantly nothing-ing. We are the source of nothing in the midst of pure being. Simply put, for Sartre, when we die—that’s when we are.

Perhaps we can find solace in one (or all) of these answers. Perhaps not. Either way, this paper will consider these answers carefully in the hopes that existential time can answer the urgency of my own death.

‘Looking down time’s telescope at myself’: reincarnation and global futures in David Mitchell’s fictional worlds

Rose Harris-Birtill

This paper investigates the use of reincarnation across the oeuvre of British author David Mitchell (b.1969), exploring its deployment in his work’s structures, narratives and characterisation to understand the cycles of impermanence and regeneration that underpin his fascination with global temporality. Mitchell’s writing forms an interconnected ‘über novel’ populated with shared characters, connecting the author’s short stories, libretti and novels into a continuous terrain. Ideas of cyclicality are visible across these works, for example, in Ghostwritten’s (1999) circular structure, Cloud Atlas’ (2004) reincarnated souls, and the regenerative approach to human tragedy in Mitchell’s writing for opera, becoming most prominent in The Bone Clocks (2014). In this novel, the chakra-wielding Horologists are reincarnated over many centuries in a war against the carnivorous Anchorites, who drink souls to halt time’s effects on their bodies. Undercutting the novel’s mythologies, the realism of the dystopic near-future at the tale’s end foregrounds an ethical engagement with the harmful trajectories of Western consumerism. If the novel is seen within the context of his wider writing, a pattern emerges that reveals a metamodern oscillation between the finality of the dystopic and the possibility of ecological redemption.

Drawing on these textual reworkings of the Buddhist philosophy of samsara, or the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, this paper investigates the links between the author’s interest in Buddhism and its secular manifestation in the treatment of time in his speculative fictions. These works use the trope of reincarnation as part of an ethical approach to the Anthropocene, exploring cyclical temporality as a model that warns of the dangers of seeing the past as separate from the future, and suggesting that an understanding of generational interdependence and causality are urgently needed in order to challenge the linear ‘end of history’ narrative of global capitalism.

Set Together & Same Time, Always Behind: Global performance and the urgency of the collective now

Emily DiCarlo

I propose to give an overview of my creative practice, which focuses on issues of duration and time, travel and displacement, collaboration and community, and the power of the gesture.  By exploring time and duration as a malleable medium, I visually articulate these concepts by manipulating the ephemeral, framing the durational and ongoing, and highlighting the displaced, the lost and the absent.

My presentation will explore the urgency of time through an artistic lens and use two creative projects to illustrate. The first work, Set Together, is a globally, collaborative project that asked participants to share in witnessing and documenting the setting sun on the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere - Saturday June 21st, 2014.

The project explores the interplay between simultaneity and displacement by attempting to render collectively lived experiences into one compounded time and space. Through the simple gesture of watching a sun set, the intensifying postmodern need for connection and communal interaction becomes of primary concern. For the duration of the conference, I propose to install the printed performance documentation from 97 participants, from more than 50 cities in 16 countries.

I will also speak to Same Time, Always Behind, an ongoing performance-for-video series, which expresses the connective power between two individuals miles apart. Working with a collaborator living at least one time zone away, we document a sunset "together". Performed within the same 24HR duration, each participant captures their respective time zone's sunset and logs their subjective observations. The video footage and the written words are then edited and played together, which result in a "compounding of time" as though the two individuals had been physically together. I also propose to lead a participatory performance with conference members, encouraging them to connect with a contact overseas to “watch the sunset” with.

The Non-Urgency of Animation or How to Jump Out of a Vehicle in Motion

by Jose Garcia-Moreno

Animators conform one of the most uncharacteristic groups in contemporary society. In order to animate, you must restrain urgency and interrupt immediacy. As a tortoise-savant, the animation process is not only un-fast and un-furious but also painfully slow, mentally demanding and physically exhausting. It closely resembles distillation, which accomplishes its task drop by drop. Aristotle wrote about the process in his Meteorologica that even "ordinary wine possesses a kind of exhalation, and that is why it gives out a flame".  Along with distillation, animation is in search of that spirit that elevates in an exhalation. Not only the distillation equipment is a still, but also animation originates from an interruption that demands stillness.

In order to find it you must dismount to contemplate the frenzy of time. One of the most beautiful analogies that represent contemplation as interruption is found in the image of a Greek vase, the Münster Hydra, which describes Achilles as the original ancestor charioteer of the Apobatai. An apobatês (‘dis-mounter’) is a fully armed warrior who rode in a chariot for a while, dismounted, and ran alongside the chariot for a time, and then jumped back onto the chariot. It could be argued that an animator is also a dis-mounter.

Animation contradicts societal trends of speed and transparency, because its essence revolves around four basic features: interruption; absence and/or anonymity through an instrument of mediation like a mask or a puppet; the manufacture of synthetic time that is unique to its process; and finally, an Ex Post Facto experience because animation is inconclusive until a never-manifested synthetic time emerges "from what is done afterwards”.

Telling Time. Literary Rituals and Trauma

Daniela Tan

In 2016, five years will have past since the tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in North-Eastern Japan on March 11, 2011. This timescale allows - and requires - an approach to the question, how literature has dealt with the immediate impacts and the medium-term consequences of such a both natural and human made disaster.

While in the first shock images of falling snow on the stroken zone demonstrated the desolate state of those living in the devastated era, not much later the blossoming cherry trees were an expression of the ambivalence of natural beauty and recovery in contrast with the impossibility to live in a radioactive contaminated place. Writers have depicted the human conflict of time running off from those who had to leave the everyday life, and those hurrying to bring help and reliev to them.

But in the meantime, the discourse has dramatically changed to political questions of responsibility and political impact of such a catastrophe. This turn will be demonstrated with examples from writers such as Yū Miri, Murakami Ryū and Takahashi Gen'ichirō. The paper aims in integrating the Japanese post 3/11 discourse in the greater context of catastrophic literature, which is a recurring theme in the Japanese literature of the 20th and 21st century.

1,1 million years of urgency. Urgency of time in and before the anthropocene

Joed Elich

Early man was not as primitive as we might have thought for a long time. Only 87 out of 20,000 of our genes are different from Neanderthal people. The role of those different genes is not entirely clear yet. Early man could produce music and did have speech long before we thought. Stereotypically, they lived in caves, did not shave and ate raw food. At least, those have been common presumptions. New research shows that they ate cooked foods. And on shells found between 1891 and 1900, only recently engravings were discovered that are over 500,000 years old. It shows that early man was more creative than we ever thought. When studying our ancestors, we change our concepts of time. A time span of 10,000 years all of sudden becomes an exact measure, but in today’s society we count in hours, days or years at most. In that sense, time seems to have become more urgent. We talk about climate change, extinction of species, and energy problems within the next 30-50 years. Our time frames seem to have become shorter. What are the time frames throughout history? Was there urgency in ancient times? Urgency of time seems linked to sophistication and modernity, something that did not exist in history or ancient times. How can we measure urgency in ancient times? And how urgent or `inurgent´ is and was time? Can we compare our concept of urgency with that of our ancestors? In this paper, I want to discuss the concepts of urgency and inurgency over larger periods of time. New and recent discoveries about ancient people will be crucial in the argument.

‘More than watchmen’: Dante on Urgency in Ritual

Dennis Costa

In Paradiso 10, twelve theologians in a circle are moved to sing and dance a round in the heaven of the Sun. Dante glosses the moment as liturgical.  His simile likens their being moved to the verge-escapement movement of a modern (14th century), double-geared clock that marks time as it “draws and drives” / “tira e urge and triggers an alarm, so that “God’s spouse gets up to sing a pre-dawn song to her husband because she loves him.” This figure of sacred urgency is explicitly erotic: movement back-and-forth creates a tension, imaged as the ‘tumescence’ (turge, “swells,” in rhyme with urge) of all those who are spiritually urgent; this kind of tension inevitably triggers . . . the office of Matins. A 21st-century physicist might call such a moment an intersection of the course of time with the arrow of time.

 The human phenomenon of temporal urgency attends ritual practice in quite particular ways.  Master K’ung’s (Confucius’s) footsteps “seem to slow” as he approaches a festal observance.   The Mayan shaman “hastens” in early spring to chant prayers to plant-stalks of crops just then appearing.  In Psalms 130:6, the human soul (by extension, the faithful of Israel) waits for the Lord “more than watchmen wait for the morning.” One ancient targum interprets these watchers as then giving a signal “to offer up the morning sacrifice.” And in Paradiso 23, Dante’s Beatrice is compared to a mother bird who, in the middle of the night, “on an exposed branch, anticipates the hour / and with ardent desire waits for the sun.”  Fully “aware,” fully “erect,” “suspended, eager,” she’s about to introduce Dante into a ritual moment, when it will become clear to him that the salvation Christ brings is also a product of the natural history of the entire universe and that the apocalyptic “supper of the Lamb,” coming “soon,” may be “foretasted” right now.

This paper will also detail Dante’s evocation of temporal urgency in the ante-purgatory (Purg. 7, 8), wherein the reader learns that the opposite of lethargy is liturgy, that mere repetition without urgency is hell, and that urgency in ritual makes it possible to remember the future.   

“That was ‘now’ then”: Time’s Urgency and Big History in Anne Cluysenaar’s Poetry

Holly Schaaf

This paper reads Anne Cluysenaar’s poetry in the context of Big History’s attempts to recontextualize the place of human beings in time.  The poems of “Through Time” in Cluysenaar’s 2011 collection Migrations contrast urgent shifts in behavior that happen minute-by-minute with long-term geological changes, yet also emphasize the human ability to interpret present actions as products of evolution invested with hope of future survival.  In several poems, Cluysenaar rapidly shifts the temporal vantage point, capturing the experience of being simultaneously affected by present sensory stimuli and abstract scientific knowledge of the past.  In “Up Gwrellech Stream,” due to these conflicting inputs “[i]t seems that ‘now’, / the word itself, becomes more and more / strange to us with every step up the stream.”  Her phrase “the word itself” emphasizes the extent to which the experience is shaped by human language, a force that enables our precise mental time travel. 

Cluysenaar draws readers urgently into whatever she presents as “now,” from 375 million years ago when Tiktaalik, the link between fish and amphibians, first emerges onto land, to a vision of future human beings like fish out of water “imperfectly skilled to survive / as the planet warms, dries.” Yet her poetry also reveals how our propensity to use science to imagine “nows” of which we are not actually a part can make the intensity of present lived experience difficult to process.  Her speaker in “Near the Farmers Arms, Llandegfedd” considers changes in farming over decades, geological shifts in siltstone, and seasonal rhythms, but becomes dizzy when a butterfly “silver sun-flash, / white and black dots, molten, whirls in too near.”  Cluysenaar’s poems explore competing and connecting urgencies of the vast ranges of “nows” human beings can inhabit.

Development as temporality. Urgency as a cultural rhythmic

Gonzalo Iparraguirre

This work presents the theoretical frame to research development as temporality, from an anthropological methodology called “cultural rhythmics”. The objective is to introduce an ethnographic model to interpret the way in which territorial development agendas and prospective decision making are built in terms of temporality. The motivations for the research are in line with previous studies about the construction of temporality in indigenous people (2011), and the articulation between imaginaries and rhythms of life to approach territorial development in Argentina (2015). It is proposed to analyze “urgency” as a rhythmic characteristic of globalized rhythm of life, according to what cultural rhythmics allow to interpret social dynamics. The imaginary of “urgency” is nowadays in the core of economic models of development that booster society to live to produce, and consume to put up the accelerated rhythm of life. Thus, analyzing the paradigm of global capitalistic development as temporality allows to comprehend the symbolic components behind this imaginary and their practical manifestations (agricultural intensification, fast food production, commodities market, virtual commercialization, global political agendas, ecological devastation, overpopulated territories, among others). Finally, it is discussed the notions of temporality proposed by J. T. Fraser and which of them can contribute to deepen an epistemology of development.  

Resisting the Urgency of Time

L. Brown Kennedy

Seventeenth Century England experienced a crisis in the cultural understanding of time that parallels the dilemma posed by the twenty-first century conjunction of rampant capitalism, manifest destiny, and the pollution of nature.  Writing Paradise Lost in 1667—given the failure of the Puritan Revolution and its millennial-utopian expectations—John Milton focused his poem on the philosophical, scientific and ethical question: in what way does temporality signify and what, if any, demands does time make on human beings.  What does time urge?

 Milton thus inserts himself into a long debate in the Christian west about the meaning of history, of human action within temporal change.  To summarize: for Augustine, the church and its liturgy carry a divine pattern, manifest also in nature, that nurtures its members until the reunion of time with eternity.  For Eusebius, time exists to achieve a divine purpose that can be politically and historically realized.  An Eusebian historicism, mediated by the writings of Fox and Calvin, animates Puritan sermons calling for an immediate battle that will precipitate apocalypse and prepare time’s apotheosis.  By contrast, Milton’s friend Andrew Marvell recanted: “The cause was too good to have been fought for . . . for men may spare their paines where Nature is at work and the world will not go the faster for our driving.” Nature’s time works slowly for Marvell; human “driving” or urgency is asynchronous.

This paper argues that Milton—disillusioned with the Puritans’ answer to an “urgent” call for action, but equally unwilling to be, with Marvell, quiescent or resigned to what a ruined nature can yield—searches for a medial, “wandering” path of trial and literal error that—eschewing both urgency and stasis— tries neither to preempt/control the future nor cling to a failing present.   Milton’s take on time also addresses: destabilized nature and the birth of a death-driven consumerism, as well as time’s possibilities interposed against death.  Postlapsarian Adam lurches between the suicidal impulse toward stasis and a desire for Eve’s industry and its products as a dream of continuous, linear progress.  It is finally Christ who opens a space of significant time. 

The last two books of Paradise Lost model reading “in time”—an hermeneutic that resists the foreclosure of unknown possibility and posits instead the “wandering steps and slow” of the poem’s final lines.

Reveries of Deep Time: Chinese Lithophilia and The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin

Paul Harris

We live in an interesting time for time.  On the one hand, we are situating human history within natural history: Big History, debates around the Anthropocene, deep ecology, and environmental humanities all seek to connect modern cultural histories to the timelines of cosmic, terrestrial, and evolutionary histories.  On the other hand, fundamental gaps or rifts persist between these temporal scales; it remains difficult to connect (whether intuitively, affectively, or intellectually) lived time and deep time, unfolding mortal life and geological eons or cosmic epochs.  Overcoming these gaps or rifts has become one of the most urgent tasks of our time, for only by doing so can we ground our daily practices and short-term policies in long-term temporalities.  This paper presents philosophical, artistic, and material practices that center on stones, and theorizes them as “reveries of deep time.”  These reveries represent a means for the mind to contemplate, connect to, and dwell in the vast expanses of geological timescales.

Reverie is a specific contemplative and cognitive mode, composed of both a concentrated will and deep listening simultaneously. In The Poetics of Reverie, Gaston Bachelard asserts that the “dreamer of reveries…opens himself to the world, and the world opens itself to him…. [T]wo depths pair off, reverberate in echoes which go from the depths of being of the world to a depth of being of the dreamer” (173).   In Bachelard’s thinking, reverie disrupts the “horizontal” flow of time and opens onto the “vertical” time of the “poetic” or “epiphanic instant,” characterized by “the principle of an essential simultaneity in which the most scattered and disunited being achieves unity.” 

Lithophilia is the term scholar Graham Parkes uses to refer to “the Chinese veneration for stone in its natural, unworked state” (75).   This passion for stone is pervasive: it underlies Chinese cosmology and philosophy; it finds expression in the arts of creating gardens, visual art, and poetry, as well as mounting and displaying stones on desks of scholars. This veneration rests on a Taoist philosophy within which rocks were particularly prized manifestations of qi, the one breathing energy animating the cosmos.  Taoist aesthetics display close similarities to reverie: garden designers, landscape painters, and poets all sought to open themselves to a “harmonious vibration” between mind and stone, to allow the qi of rocks to enter the calmed mind, and translate itself into garden, painting or poem.  Examples of these different practices, from classical gardens to Wang Wei poetry to landscape paintings, will be analyzed as forms of reveries.

The paper concludes with an analysis of how Chinese lithophilia finds contemporary expression in The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin.  Jardin coined the term “Petriverse” to mean both a world composed of rocks and words composed about rocks. Jardin’s contemplative practice as stonedesigner and rock writer creates reveries of deep time, expressed in philosophical and poetic ruminations on them, including a series of word-image collages Jardin calls “Rockery Reveries.” 

Interstellar’s Black Hole and How to Read Time

Cameron Riddell

I propose to present a graduate paper from April 2015 which analyzes how the film Interstellar (2014) explores time spatially, typologically, theologically, and technologically, for egress from the dying Earth of the failed anthropocene. In space travel, the implications of gravitational physics on relativity become threatening. Time can be experienced by a single human subject at vastly different rates; the subject’s removal from and reintegration into the anthropocene’s human species-time is both a traumatic and—as I discuss later—a potentially autopoietic event. Interstellar theorizes how time-travel would manifest to observers, with regard to both secular and theological approaches to assessing the relationship between mystery and knowledge. To build this reading, I draw from the typological relationship of the Bible’s testaments in Northrop Frye’s “The Great Code”, and from the William Connolly’s delineation of subjective-times in the essay “Faith, Belief, and Secularity”. Frye destabilizes the relations between prophecy and fulfillment by binding them in a co-deterministic typological loop. Connolly expands by arguing that events can be also be bound in a typological loop if they, by chance, combine with the resonance of cultural significance. Finally, I will argue that Interstellar explores the typological loop visually, through the Library of The Past (which is a tesseract—an interface, like a computer’s, though one which is designed by Future-Observers to translate their desires into a language understandable by the Present-Agent humans). Interstellar is a recent mix of hard Sci-Fi (I explore the Black Hole as a literary symbol by exploring its physical properties and how they affect a subject’s time and role as observer) and also an exercise in complete creativity: if the contents of a Black Hole are paradoxically (un)knowable, then it becomes the perfect loci to creatively fuse knowledge and mystery, secularity and theology, humanity and post-humanity. 

Futures Research/ Foresight and urgency – the discrepancy between long-term thinking and short-term decision-making

Kerstin Cuhls

Foresight is the long-term view into the future or different futures, defined as the more action-oriented “structured debate about complex futures”. The academic pendant is Futures Research dealing with possible, probable and desirable future developments. Even if the future cannot be predicted, major developments emerge already today in their basics. The guardrails of the possible, probable and desirable can be determined in this sense by scientific methods and in social discourses.

Meanwhile, methods are available to work with the different time horizons (e.g. Delphi surveys), to work with different long-term scenarios in preparation or decision-making, or even to travel in time as thought experiments. But although time scales up to 30, 40 or even more years have to be considered when e.g. investing new infrastructures, technologies or to change the behavior of people, decision-making is often still ad hoc and does not take the time to think about the consequences. In Futures Research, a very linear time concept is still in the forefront, although the thought experiments make it possible to go back and forth in time thinking, prepare for different futures, or even shape “the” preferable future with visioning processes (mainly in innovation research but also in transformative studies).

This contribution demonstrates examples of this discrepancy from the last 25 years empirical research mainly in “government foresight” but also “strategic foresight” of companies, associations or others – and it tries to explain why both long- and short-term time considerations are so important and what long- and short-term means for the different stakeholders (relativity of time considerations).

„Some reflections on the quality of time in pre-modern Japan“

Gerhard Lienss

In Chinese history, the rulers shared the privilege and duty to deliver time to its people. The yearly calendar devised by court astronomers was the primary tool for delivering this task and extant editions from the 1st century onwards reveal that these calendars performed two clear cut functions: the first is the universal function provided by all calendars, which is to create a sequential order for days, months and years, an arrow of time, which allows to identifying any given day within linear historical time. The other function, intrinsic and more specific to this East Asian type, is to qualify units of time as propitious or the opposite based on correlative thinking which is relying on a time mode that is entirely cyclical. Thus, users us these calendars could base their timing decisions for general or specific purposes by resorting to this kind of advice provided for each day in time, but also for months and the year. This bi-functional calendar reached Japan in the 7th century when the Chinese time order was adopted on the peninsula; although the numerous Japanese editions that survived from all historical periods vary in their particulars and in the way how entries and cycles are expressed, they do not differ in their general ambition to unite two essentially different aspects of time on the surface of one calendar.

In this talk I will first examine the changing interpretations of the cosmos that form the rationale behind this attribution of qualities to units of time and then look at some examples how this cyclical-qualitative time influenced human behaviour in a society that shared the belief that there is an appropriate time which should serve as a guide for planning and timing activities.

Time’s Urgency In A Pre-War Setting

Friedrich von Petersdorff

An ultimatum, leaving a continuously decreasing amount of time left to take necessary decisions, is one of the many cases in which temporal settings are experienced (or described) as time’s urgency.  Tragic instances of such ultimatums are those which would lead to war if the recipient of the ultimatum does not comply with the measurements requested. Such was the case in 1914 when the leading politicians in Europe failed to untangle the political situation following the murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, leading to the outbreak of what would be experienced as the Great War or the First World War. As it is the task of historians to study and to analyse the unfolding of these decisive moments many theories about the causes of the outbreak of war have been published since then. In 2012 Christopher Clark, in his book “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914”, intended to point out to some pre-war developments which in his view were not yet sufficiently referred to in the discussions of the causes. Clark, furthermore, presented the power structure of 1914 as polycentric, thereby providing an analysis which did not result in a narrative based upon the question of guilt or non-guilt. In my paper, however, I shall not focus upon the historical details as presented by Clark or by other historians. Rather, I shall provide an analysis of how these distinct approaches within historiography (i.e. highlighting a polycentric power structure versus describing explicit steps by which a war becomes unavoidable) are of significance regarding an understanding of time’s urgency, as I argue that these different types of narrative result in distinct understandings of the temporal dimensionality and flexibility the actors involved had at their disposal.

Acceleration of Time in Complex Film Narratives

Sonia Front

The accelerated temporal rhythms of late-capitalist mode of production and consumption together with the culture of information and people’s involvement in global networks of communication have shifted human understanding of and relation to time in the digital era. The predominant features of the new culture of time are acceleration, simultaneity, immediacy, the immersion in “permanent present” (Jameson) and the spatialization of time. This altered sense of time, very different from linear time, is foregrounded in early twenty-first century film by means of non-chronological, disruptive and multi-layered narrative frameworks. Scholars have referred to the type of film with various names: “modular narratives” (Cameron), “atemporal” (McGowan), “alternative plots” (Berg, Walters), “framed time” (Stewart), “puzzle films” (Buckland), “complex narratives” (Simons), etc. The temporal relations of this new polychronic film are governed by new paradigms of causality, which refute the cause-effect relationship and engage in multi-directional relations.

One of the films that exemplify this trend in cinema is Tom Tykwer’s, Andy and Lana Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas (2012). By its thematic concerns and complex narrative framework, reworking David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas (2004), the film enacts the dynamics and acceleration of experiential time in the digital age and proposes a concept of subjectivity applicable to the digital era. Through the prism of holistic theories of identity, the paper will examine the film’s concept of twenty-first century subjectivity, singular and manifold, separated and connected simultaneously, and how it taps into the theme of global interconnectedness and co-temporality brought about by the media and globalization; how it depicts synchronicity and entanglement of nomads travelling through incompatible presents of various time zones.

Time's Redeeming Urgency

Walter Schweidler

At first glance, time’s urgency seems to intensify the existential challenge with which we as human beings are confronted by the knowledge of our finitude. Given the limited amount of time we have, it seems to us that the speeding up of its course means that we lose it even faster than we normally do when tempus fugit. In the philosophical perspective however, this defeatist view turns out only to be the consequence of an incorrect understanding of finitude, based on what Hegel called the ‘bad infinite’, i.e. the illusion that the flight of time could be overcome by the extension of its course. The opposite insight, i.e. that we can cope with time’s flow neither by extending nor stopping it, but only by turning it against itself, is incorporated in a way unsurpassed in Proust’s recherche du temps perdu. In light of this insight, time’s urgency becomes our dearest ally in the enterprise of forestalling life’s end by the symbolic repetition of its beginning in itself, i.e. in time. The decision to integrate this renewal of its beginning into its course is tantamount to the exclusion of any possible extension beyond the moment of that decision. It is this moment which, in order to anticipate death, we then have to re-reach as fast as possible, i.e. as urgent as the return to it is made by the length of the detour that we must retake in the form of its narration. Thus, the urgency of life’s time and the chance to reach its aim essentially converge.

Crises and Day-Selection in Medieval Japan—The Tension between Urgency and Temporal Optimization

Kristina Buhrman

This paper examines the way in which demands for an optimal temporal-cosmological orientation for actions in the early medieval Japanese court were balanced with the need to complete actions within a particular time period or avoid looming danger. The cosmological system that Japan imported from China in the seventh century mandated that human actions follow the cosmological cycles and trends, in a balancing of human and Heaven on both the micro- and macro-levels; cosmological forces, likewise, were thought to work in cycles or timeframes, giving this system an inherent temporal element. One such practice to balance human and cosmic temporality was the execution of criminals in the winter to match the hibernation of plant life, whereby the harmonic resonance between both scales would ensure success. The scheduling of ritualized action was done, as above, not only on the state level, but carried down through the societal and personal levels as well. The selection of appropriate days, therefore, extended to all levels of elite action.

Disasters and omens were a concern to the court because they presented a sudden or pressing danger, and documents from the court mandated that such events be announced and dealt with quickly—yet the strong impetus towards selecting the most appropriate day and time, and the divinations to select such days, could delay dealing with such crises, sometimes even well past the time of apparent danger. This paper presents general information about how day-selection was carried out in Japan during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and then analyzes a few cases wherein the need to complete an action quickly was in tension with the desire that the action be made effective through the time-consuming process of selecting the best temporal orientation for it.

Time’s Urgency Ritualized: The Centrality and Authority of the Mayan Calendar

Marge Devinney

The Maya, a Meso-American people still living in their ancestral lands, have for centuries regulated their sacred, social, business, and agricultural activities by adhering to their ingenious astronomical calendar.

Mayan hieroglyphic writing records the dates of historical events and of the reigns of royalty as well as of deities; this dating derives from mathematical processes applied to astronomical observations that focus on the mythological and agricultural deities associated with the sun, the moon, and the planet Venus, primarily as the Morning Star.

The complete calendar consists of at least three different “counts” and the combination and interpretation of these by especially revered diviners in the community allow for recording the past, advising on current activities, and predicting the future.

For this conference, the most important of these uses—as might be expected--is advising on current activities: the daykeeper, a shaman-priest, the premier position of respect in the community, carries out the ritual of counting and advising, acting as intermediary between the people and the gods, transmitting offerings, petitions, and gratitude; and also bringing to the people advice and demands from the gods. The result of his counting ritual determines that specific days are favorable or inauspicious for particular activities, and this urgency is recognized and observed by the community at large.

In addition to descriptions of the ritual performance and the community’s participation, relevant examples from the K’iche’ Mayan Popol vuh will help illustrate the depth of the calendar’s significance.

Human Agency in the Urgency of Time: A Generative Mapping of Fraser’s Hierarchy with Urban Morphology

Delle Odeleye

The ‘art’ of creating wholes, whether in forms, relationships, institutions and environments, takes time –this was reflected in the notion of ‘craftsmanship’. By contrast, compiling separate parts and components, particularly through methods of mass production, is fast. Even faster is the act of destruction reducing in a short period or an instant, what has taken months, years or decades to build. Modern architecture, planning and urban design practice typically reject traditional approaches as archaic or nostalgic, Yet, current policy’s ‘place-making’ objectives are derived from appreciating the organic qualities of earlier towns produced through such ‘archaic’ approaches. While it may no longer be practical to hand-make our products, or built environment, arguably one of the key challenges of our contemporary era, is how we can once again create ‘wholes’. The New Urbanism (NU) sets out a ‘SmartCode’ derived from earlier towns thought to be more successful than those produced by modernist segregational ‘zoning’. However, the results of this form-based coding are also critiqued as being nostalgic and elitist. Given this, are ‘sustainable’ design principles for energy efficiency, reducing waste and water in buildings enough to heal our built spaces and our relationship with the natural environment and each other? And if not, what are we missing? This paper argues that what we consider to be time’s urgency merely reflects current human approaches to knowing, and to building relationships and forms within the environment. It explores the question; ‘What is / are generating this sense of time’s urgency in spaces and places?’ The built environment is used as the bases for exploring what this might mean for our conception of time itself. It thereby proposes that a generative model of spatial morphology is needed to understand human agency in the generation of time stress. And it maps JT Fraser’s Hierarchical Theory of Time onto a conceptual framework of spatio-temporal structure - suggesting a ‘Generative Re-framing’ of mechanisms for stability, change and diversity in urban morphogenesis.

Against the ‘Illusion of Duration’: Artwork and Temporality, after Adorno

Miles Link

This paper asks how art’s critical engagement with temporality and time is threatened by technology’s increasing claims to show an objective world.

Theodor Adorno critiques Walter Benjamin’s view of film as a point where ‘the critical and the receptive attitudes of the public coincide’, by pointing out the overmastering effect of film’s technical elements: ‘A poetic tremor’, says Adorno, ‘is expected of every example of emphatic objectivity’. This point is even more easily understood today—and not only in film, with the presentation of data visualisations, space photography and the products of Google’s ‘Deep Dream’ software as creative art.

Technological power here is about imprinting a feeling of repeatability and ‘adaptation’ (in the sense that ‘[A]ll mass culture is fundamentally adaptation’) that attacks art’s temporal-historical dimension, or its ability to ‘transport’ its audience through differing experiences of time. As Adorno points out, however, the alternative to this situation is not the maintenance of a spuriously genuine traditional culture ‘outside’ of time, nor the production of masterpieces that ‘seek to lose themselves in time so as not to become its prey’.

Today the vexed relationship of art and temporality (for example, in the arrival of the concept of the Anthropocene, and its far greater dimensions of truth) is really a threat to artwork’s critical perspective, and its ability to render new senses of temporality upon us, by the ‘permanence’ that is suggested through technology’s power to render a show of objectivity. If history can be understood aesthetically, as the unfolding of artistic forms that resist the reduction of reality to the ‘merely existent’, then art in our day needs to free itself from the ‘illusion of duration’.

The paper discusses how artistic forms past and present have rebelled against what technical power claims as permanent.

Time’s Urgency through Art and Drama:
Painting’s Urgent Language on Samuel Beckett’s Stage

Claudia Clausius

‘Urgency’ anticipates decision, action, at the very least recognition, not only in the sciences and politics but also in the arts. Theatre is structured on rising dramatic pressure leading to a climax of revelation. Painting too characterizes urgency: in historical narrative through momentous events and in portraiture through personal conversions. More recently, however, modern art and literature have disconnected urgency from this optimistic design, choosing instead to depict an urgency sabotaged by a peculiar ambiguity.

‘Urgency’ operates within a sustained ambivalence. Substantively, the word denotes emergency, even crisis; as a verbal, it addresses hesitation, even disinclination.  Urgency then is both longing and aspiration, aversion and unwillingness. Perhaps the most concentrated form of urgency exists in depictions of  ‘madness.’ Indeed, madness is at least partially defined by an intense assertion to articulate an internal requirement. The history of painting offers infinite examples of such urgency - from the soundless screams of the damned in illustrations of Dante’s Inferno to the noiseless shrieks of Francis Bacon’s hysterical figures.

Despite writing for the stage, Samuel Beckett sets out to demonstrate a similar futile language of urgency, his characters’ manic fueled equally by desire and aversion. The common medium in all these cases is an inescapable atemporality. Like Dante’s damned souls imprisoned in an eternal hell and Bacon’s frozen corpses and cubes, Beckett’s characters remain caught in an urgent ‘non-time’ of repetition, cycles, and rotations. Despite their crisis, there is no escape for these figures either in act or acknowledgment. The tautology of ‘urgent time’ functions as both the medium and the enemy, the vehicle and the adversary. There is urgency, but no more time.


Jeffrey Cohen

Stratigraphy peers into stripes (strata) of stone to discern how matter writes (graphia) long narratives, history made legible through layering. That this history strives for the linear, with each successive striation well punctuated, is underscored by the idea of an unconformity, a space in the geological record where what should be horizontal layers have shifted to sit at strange angles. Uncomformity is the bucking of geological force against intelligibility, but such convolutions in the lithic archive can be straightened out when the earth is thought within its proper historical duration. Time moves sequentially forward, with breaks (sometimes clean, sometimes not so easy to discern) that mark transitions. Like stratigraphy, the interpretive practice known as historicism generally holds that the literary record is linear, punctuated, and the product of its context. Modes of writing both body forth and are determined through specific, legible conditions. Texts and genres are signifiers of circumstance, best read by looking closely at determinate economic and social conditions, historical influences, cultural contact, and available social and intellectual resources, all of which exert inscriptive force. The literary archive, like the geological archive, is horizontal, layered, punctuated.

Resisting the compulsion to level literary unconformities, this presentation wonders what a mode of reading that abandons the stratified archive might be like. I follow the long history of Noah and his ark, a narrative machine that does not stop generating alternatives to its inundations and sufferance. Alongside this foundational story of catastrophe, climate change and gated community have perennially unfolded dissenting tales that embrace the point of view of the excluded, that posit a certain transhistoricism of affect in an attempt to feel across supposedly unbreachable walls. What if Noah’s ark (a floating strongbox of human and animal stories, of trans-species possibilities in the face of climate catastrophe) is abandoned as singular origin? The Noah story seldom settles into an era within which it can be separated off into a fullness of contextual meaning, arriving instead as a perpetual uncomformity, not amenable to clean periodizations of time.

On Pace and Pay:  The Complex Story of Time’s Urgency in Mobile Wallet Adoption

Dawna Ballard and Matthew McGlone

Mobile communication, in general, and mobile wallet use, in particular, has an inherent time-space contour wherein individuals effectively reshape, or rearrange, time and space to suit their communication goals.  To explore the extent to which consumers’ general attitudes and behaviors regarding time (and often space) were predictive of their specific attitudes and behaviors about the time-space affordances of mobile wallet use, we obtained responses from 472 participants who were all moderate to high-tech users, 205 of whom self-identified as mobile wallet users.  Using several previously validated and reliable measures—i.e., self-report instruments designed to measure time urgency, scarcity, availability, pace of life, and time-space fluidity—we found that the heightened experience of urgency, pace of life, and temporal availability was associated with greater likelihood of mobile wallet use.  Our finding about the relationship between time urgency and mobile wallet use certainly reflects the marketing of mobile payment applications. For instance, an advertisement for ApplePay promises: Paying in stores or within apps has never been easier. Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. The wasted moments finding the right card. Now payments happen with a single touch.  A faster pace of life is also an expected finding as speed is explicitly promised in Google Wallet’s advertising, including: “Speed through online checkout.” and “Spend instantly.”  However, temporal availability as a predictor of mobile wallet adoption is counterintuitive as well as inconsistent with existing marketing efforts to draw users.  Nonetheless, this finding supports previous work that early adopters perceive the initial drag on resources (e.g., mobile wallet use is often an inefficient process in stores with a low volume of users) as a worthwhile investment due to perceived time-saving costs in the future.  Taken together, there is a complex and surprising story of the diffusion of new communication technologies as relying upon a smaller group of innovators who are willing to be inconvenienced initially to reduce time-space friction in the future.  This also suggests that urgency and speed—dominant narratives of technology use—may be considered alongside more localized temporal narratives.

The Discovery of Geotemporality: James Hutton and Siccar Point

Barry Wood

Erosion on James Hutton’s farm led to a question:  why haven’t all the mountains and highlands of the world already washed into the sea? During a pleasure boat ride  south of Edinburgh in 1788, he found an explanation, which he explained to his his companions (John Playfair and Sir James Hall). Playfair later wrote that it was like an infinite vista opening up before their eyes. The structure of low cliffs at Siccar Point provided him with a visible narrative—and the crucial evidence that sea bottom rock is thrust above the water to form more mountains and highlands. Layers of sedimentary  rock at severe angles (now known as an Unconformity) could only be explained by a sequence of several vast geological changes (including successive uplifts), each stretching over millions of years. Remarkably, Hutton intuitively understood the changes behind what they were seeing. This momentous event was a first step in the discovery of geotemporality. Other unconformities have been found around the world but Siccar Point remains the most famous—a significant destination for geological students, British schoolchildren, and tourists. Local ruins of St. Helen’s Chapel in the Romanesque architectural style add a human dimension to this ancient geological landscape. This presentation will include a single-page handout with diagrams on one side and a breakdown of Hutton’s narrative on the other. His remarkable discovery is one of the most dramatic illustrations of geotemporality in the world.

David Mitchell’s Pivotal Moments: Recursion, Rebirth, Recycling, Recognition 

Wendy Knepper

Focusing on the examples of The Bone Clocks and the forthcoming Slade House, I suggest that Mitchell’s work seeks to enrich and complicate an understanding of globalization as a time-bound versus potentially timeless/unrestricted event. Such tensions are characteristically represented in the author’s efforts to structure an unfolding story through pivotal moments of world-systemic crisis, typically framed by multiple and interlocking plot lines. Rather than offer a consolidated view of global history, Mitchell seems to problematize the relationship between time and the event. First, Mitchell’s world-systems approach suggests that change and crisis need to be understood in term of global capitalism’s own recursive cycles of expansion, stagnation, and recession, often leaving little room for either agency or action. Second, Mitchell explores competing cycles of rebirth versus eternal recurrence, showing a strong preference for representing the latter as a non-event. Third, Mitchell sees events as effects of uneven and combined development, evidenced through the non-stadial fusion, convergence, or juxtaposition of archaic and more modern temporalities. Understood in this way, cultural resources from different temporalities might be recycled in unpredictable or creative ways that serve to restructure global transformation along more creative and perhaps ethical lines. Fourth, the experimental act of narration produces another temporal framework, which may radically disrupt or alter the event so that it no longer appears as a structured entity. Forms of precognition and temporal disruption are particularly striking in this category. In this context, the action seems to occur independent of the agent, such that time and the event are visited upon the subject, producing a seemingly atemporal or uncanny effect. For that altered temporality to become either actionable or event-like, precognition must turn to recognition of the pivotal moment to come, but this potentiality often exceeds the narrative frame itself, producing instead new possibilities, a Jetztzeit, for the reader in the world beyond the text. Through the aesthetic reframing of time, Mitchell produces pivotal moments that pre-structure an alternative or speculative global future, whose spectral presence exceeds any depictions of the future conveyed in the story-world.

View Printable Version