Friday, May 21, 2004

More on Time.....

The idea of a chronotope is fascinating to me. It helps me anchor my thinking about time. One of the troubles I have always had in thinking about time was the problem of getting outside of a linear flow model. I had no metaphors and couldn't seem to land on any myself that really made sense. I am taking the notion of a chronotope as shared social 'artifact' as the base metaphor. I am then following this up with the metaphor of a 'virtual space' being a way to think about time - specifically asynchronous multiple person centered linear time models (chronotopes). I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday (Carol G-M) that really crystallized this for me. We were talking about the 'pacing' problems of working with a group in a moderated asynchronous dialogue. The 'space' we have typically talked about was the interface/application or subset of that (Bulletin Board or Query Space). But Carol said something that really made this clear to me. I mentioned to her the issue of some people in a dialogue I am moderating reading through the materials/activities and finishing 2 full weeks before everyone else. I was thinking about how I would handle this and Carol said this was analogous to a person showing up for a meeting 3 days early - putting their thoughts on the agenda on a flip chart and then leaving. Then the day of the meeting some of the people show up for the meeting and notice some of their colleagues have already finished! and some have not shown up! These people have their meeting and leave their tracks on the flip chart. Three days later the latecomers show up... look at all the flip charts... have their meeting and then leave!

What these helped me see is the need to translate this linear-flow model of time (sequenced arrivals/departures) with the idea of a virtual space whose primary physical dimensions are temporal. Now, what I mean by a physical dimension here is that it is acted on or it is an 'affordance' for behavior... like the ground affords standing and walls afford scaling, etc. We see these physical features as natural constituents of our 3 physical dimensions. Now we create a thing (an interface) that affords both a physical behavior (writing/typing/reading) as well as a temporal indexing of our participation and our presence.

This is all very confusing. But, I think it is coming along!