ABSTRACT

The representations of time we use to discuss globalization elide the globe and often include unexplored assumptions about simultaneity and speed. When the logic behind the representation of time is explored, one finds a tendency to deny the relevance of Earth’s movement to discussions of time. Yet, our bodies are subject to circadian cycles that link us to our position on the globe. Here I shall discuss several elements of the globalization and administra-

tion of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in relationship to the emphasis on uniformity in time standards. UTC is essential in the functioning of computer systems. UTC is also kept reconciled with the Earth’s unpredictable rotation by means of the leap second policy which inserts (or potentially deletes) one second to keep UTC roughly synchronized with the rotational day. Inserting a leap second is disruptive to computer systems, however. This has led to a proposal to eliminate leap seconds. The push to eliminate leap seconds, and thereby decouple Earth’s day and a UTC day, indicates that current time standards privilege uniformity and struggle with the Earth’s unpredictable qualities. Yet, this desire for a uniform timescale is not only at odds with the Earth, but consequently also with circadian biology. Daily biological cycles have adapted to the Earth’s foibles. So the conflict between uniform timekeeping and the Earth’s rotation indicates a larger issue of globalization: we are building a world in which biological cycles and the Earth’s motions are suppressed in favor of temporal uniformity. Current policies construct deglobed globalization. The point of this chapter, then, is to show how there is tension between the logic behind the timescale essential to all our electronics and way our bodies have adapted to the Earth’s variable rotational cycles. This tension between uniformity and flexibility that is inherent in the relationship of time and globalization has consequences. In social theory, the focus on clock time often leads to a treatment of the

representation of time as equivalent to the logics that create that representation. This confusion prompts Hassan’s complaint that discussions about instantaneous communication and time in the media and among many social theorists is ontologically and technologically naïve (Hassan, 2007, pp. 49-50). One such example of this naiveté is Bauman’s argument that space and time

have “drifted away from each other in human thought and practice” (Bauman, 2000, p. 172). On the contrary, the calculation of the current standard global timescale, UTC, takes into account spatial variables such as the distance time signals travel, the influence of the Doppler effect on those signals, and relativity. In addition, global navigation systems like GPS are actually orbiting clocks with transmitters (see NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office, 1996). So representations of time are fundamentally reliant on calculations of space, and determinations of place are fundamentally reliant on calculations of time. Thus, while the thoughts and practices of some humans separate space and time, the representations of time and space many people use rely on carefully defined and calculated relationships between space and time. In this case, fetishism not only conceals the process of production, but also conceals how that production entails making decisions and choices that shape users’ thought and practice (see Birth, 2012). To study time in relationship to globalization, then, involves the examination of how the representation of time is constitutive of global processes and shaped by human agency (Porter and Stockdale, n.d.).