Temporal Capital

01 Nov

Brain vomit time. Just wanted to get this out there. I want to think about this more, but a blog seems to be a nice drafty place for vomit to go.

You know, people talk about cultural capital (Bourdieu), social capital (how many friends you got you facebook, hmm??), economic capital, but no one ever really talks about temporal capital. I think it’s because temporal capital, or how much TIME you have is limited. Completely. My parents used to tell me that god (or whatever superior being we believe in) is fair in one thing – that everyone only gets 24 hours in a day. So…maybe it’s not that interesting to talk about because it doesn’t fluctuate?

I think it’s important to think about temporal capital though, and how it relates to how our cultural meanings are being shaped. Let’s put it in conversation with the Internet. Because I think that’s where things get most interesting. Especially in the kinds of entertainment we consume.

I struggle with this all the time. The amount of entertainment I can consume is contingent on the amount of time I spend on school, work, and friends. With the Internet, and the “democratizing” of culture, the argument is that we can find more “stuff” out there that’s entertaining, more things to take up our time. Barriers to publishing are lowered. People spend HOURS on YouTube. But that inane video that just took a minute of your time to watch…was it worth that minute? What else could you have been doing? You can say, ok, one minute, no big deal. Multiply that by how many inane videos there are out there. That’s a lot of temporal capital being taken up.

To be slightly alarmist, what happens to the shared cultural meanings of society (used in the broadest way possible) when people are spending their temporal capital on things that their neighbors may not watch? When I spent 3 minutes watching some obscure funny video that shows talking dogs and cats? Next thing I know, from clicking all the links that recommend other videos of talking animals, I’ve spent an hour of my life doing something that, while entertaining, will probably not further things in my life that are more essential. As for example, a midterm paper I’m supposed to be writing.

You can argue, of course, that that is the beauty of the Internet. Ultimate platform for free choice from a myriad of options. Didn’t someone say that the more choices one has, the less happy they are? How about issues of shared communities? No one gathers at the water coolers anymore to talk about that episode of so-and-so show last night, because we’re all watching different things – network shows, cable shows, webisodes, short videos on Vimeo and YouTube… and we don’t have enough time in the day, in our lives, to consume it all.

I have 1257 songs in my iTunes. iTunes tells me it will take me 3.9 DAYS to finish listening to it all. That’s 24 hours a day for almost 4 days of music that I carry around in my iPhone wherever I go. How do I choose? If I listen to something more than once, something else isn’t getting listened to.

Not to say that cultural gatekeepers are always right in terms of what we should be consuming. Hello hegemonic framework and manufactured consent. And all the problems with the mass culture debates. But what if there was something to it? Something to the stuff that experts tell us to pay attention to? How about politics and news? Things that affect the way we vote and made decisions in life? The more time we spend watching stupid videos on YouTube, the less time we have to consume media that will give us information that puts us in conversation with other people, affect change, and help us make decisions.

Get my point? I’m not going to write more because I’m very very tired…and writing this blog is sapping my temporal capital (which, I know, sleep does too), but … just something to think about…and hopefully something I can come back to later…..

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Posted by on November 1, 2010 in Uncategorized


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