Time is the Message
McLuhan's 'medium is the message' extended
The Policy of Time Politics
Time determines your boundaries, opportunities, cost, and communication and is therefore a message, just like the medium. A message that is on time, too early or too late is a message in itself. In effect it means an essential expansion of Mc Luhan’s theory ‘the medium is the message’.
Time is a fact and a message. So it should be part (just like the medium) of communication plans. And time is already part of the policy of politics: using time as an instrument to govern and manage a company or government. Time politics looks like a secret policy, in order to reach ones goal.
Whereas in the virtuality, space is infinite (and therefore unlimited) time is no longer an isolated (from the message) fact. Because of the speed with which nowadays messages can be send and the many ways in which the moment of arrival can be steered/manipulated, from real time to low priority, messages are hardly 'timeless' anymore. The monitored chats and some interviews show that users of electronic means of communication, when receiving a message, not only consider the content of the message and the medium used to send the message (McLuhan's the medium is the message theory) to be part of the message but the time of perusal of the announcement, arrival and/or essence of the message as well.
Time is indeed linked to messages and even forms a message in itself. The short duration between sending and receiving is of decisive importance in many contact and transaction moments in relationships and company processes. It applies to instant messages as well as delayed and prioritised messages. The fact that time can be seen as a message is an extension of McLuhan's the medium is the message theory.
In order to gain insight into the importance of 'time' as a message it is necessary to look at the way in which people mutually make contact (and enter into relationships). This approach has been changed in a time span of one third of a century. Did people once use to enter only into relationships within the family, church or club (under penalty of isolation in the community), nowadays you can be where you want to be and have multiple parallel personal contacts that no longer as a matter of course are based on physical contact.
Being Up to date
Actually, a separate chapter could be devoted to communication via media such as the Internet and mobile telephony (in particular the text forms, such as Internet Relay Chat, chat and sms). The core of the current electronic communications is that it is an actual presentation of yourself in the virtual world, sometimes one-on-one (monocast), often one-on-group (selectcast) and sometimes one-on-all (broad-cast). You can express yourself in letters, colours and images. Your own passport photo 'speak' in Lycos' Club Eden. It all happens online and in realtime, in which a message lapsed in time usually is no longer a message: after all, a message is sent at a specific time and old news is ignored. New and news lie closely together. News is no longer news if someone else knows it already. So why waste time to read something that is 'dated'? Even websites are checked for topicality... Does the offered news seem dated? Then do not waste time reading it! The ease with which internet users ignore their language errors has everything to do with time: correction takes time, and if you are not careful, you will lag behind!
Sms stands for 'message on time'. Send you message now so that the other knows that you are there now. The communications are actionoriented and custommade for individuals and/or target groups using various channels (web, mail, television, sms). The contact is very interactive but also superficial with simplified language and relations. The language used is stripped of dead weight and based on sound. The limited amount of characters (usually a maximum of 120) and intensity of the text presentations of others forces language into a tight straitjacket. Everything must be quick, short and loose, otherwise time works against you. The result is a mix of abbreviations, sound transpositions, acronyms, jargon and international specialist terms. Chat language is a written spoken language that is mumbojumbo to newcomers. For sms language, too, inexperienced users need a dictionary. A disadvantage is that they lose time, which is why more and more people familiarise themselves with the chat and sms languages. Muchused terms and abbreviations are included in new editions of dictionaries. The finite form in communications is the same. Hierarchy has deteriorated into urgency or only counts in exchange for a business deal. Gender as a distinguishing factor is no longer the leading theme. On the Internet you are equal and yet different, the latter being more the result of one's own choice than of origin. Etiquette on the basis of standards and values is converted into regional selfregulation from a practical point of view: ensure that you are on time and up to date.
The new telecommunications technology has lowered barriers in our association with each other. Manners are simple, everyone is 'you', there is no etiquette and little hierarchy. It is unisex all the way: differences between men and women are – when essential – reduced to basic gender differences. In summary you can say that communication via the Internet and wireless telephony is quick, actionoriented, interactive and intensive. Finite forms are (all) reduced. Transfer takes place simultaneously through several media and sometimes at the same time (multichannel). Contacts are maintained generally and very personally. In this hectic 21st century communication with people who can be reached at various places during the day also includes making appointments and keeping them, planning, taking responsibility, making choices, evaluating, etc. Qualities in which many older adults do not excel, but which are taken for granted by the youngest generation. It is their digital time.
Time has many faces
What is time? This paragraph discusses linear time, time as experience and time as a message. Speed in interaction stands for young and dynamic. Young women, the grrrlz, call a man over 50 a 'fossil' because he lacks quickness of response. It makes clear that thinking in more scenarios at the same time and carrying out all kinds of parallel sending actions do not only make higher demands on technology but also on the 'receiver'. When someone does all kinds of different things at the same time using multiple devices (socalled interfaces) and various communication channels, the physical factor 'time' will become important besides the mental 'stress'. Communication channels and means of presentation have speed reduction qualities in the sending process and the human brain cannot process everything at the same speed. This is why, for example, notifications (socalled alerts) and messages do not arrive synchronously to the original moment of sending. It not only leads to awkward misunderstandings but also to erroneous (trans)actions. Interactive games expect a quick reaction (for example: a shooting game as BZFlag requires a quick response, otherwise you will 'fire' at the place where your opponent was, while he has already moved into another position, returns fire and hits you). Synchronism and response time will play a key role. It has consequences for society but will also make heavier and different demands on the front offices and technical systems of companies and authorities.
Time is money, the old economy says. Almost true. In any case it is a loss of time to correct your mistakes when they do not really matter. Whoever corrects the mistakes in his communication lags behind and loses the other party/parties. Waiting for someone who is making useless improvements is a waste of time. It devalues your value in the community. So you sever the contact and focus on another candidate. When you return after an absence you will peruse the most recent newspapers, open the most recently dated e mail messages. You do not bother with the rest and in all the hustle and bustle these messages will disappear from the recipient's sight (and attention). Often forever. In the new economy everything happens in real interaction, more quickly and on time, as the parties involved expect a direct response. The saying 'out of sight, out of mind' has turned into 'out of date, out of sight'. Just mind the realitime…