1. On society and the concept of time

On society and the concept of time


The debate remains as to exactly how societies have developed and changed over time. One common argument is that in many parts of the world, societies have gone from being agricultural societies to industrial societies into information societies – which is now the bridge to the Networked Society.

Just think about the concept of time: How has the definition and meaning changed with each society?

I recently read a book by Swedish historian and writer Peter Englund called ‘Förflutenhetens Landskap’ – which roughly translates to ‘Landscapes of the Past’. His argument is that it was not until the late 17th century that the ‘minute hand’ was introduced the clock in our concept of time. Basically, what he means by this is that time during the agricultural society was dominated by the agricultural calendar and the different phases associated with it. It was dominated by seasons, the light and weather. Most people lived in the countryside and the fastest thing around was a horse. In the cities, however, the merchant started to look at time as a value; something you own and can sell and buy.

With the dawn of industrialization, we could organize society around the concept of minutes and hours, liberating us from nature – something we can’t control.  In the industrial society, we created schedules, the work week, working hours, weekends, and later, the concept of vacations. Time was a crucial element in organizing the engine of the industrial society.

Now, as we enter the Networked Society, we will once again see how concepts like time, trust, integrity take on new meaning. We will have to start reworking these definitions just like the people in the societies before us did.


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Written by Mikael Eriksson Björling

Mikael is an Ericsson Networked Society Evangelist and Strategic Marketing Manager. His specialty is in understanding how new consumer behavior, emerging technologies and industry logics are shaping the future society, and he believes that we have great opportunities right now to shape a better world. Mikael joined Ericsson in 1998 and is based in Stockholm. You can follow him on Twitter at: @mikaeleb

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