Libraries, Archives, Technology, Impending Doom
Patience seems anachronistic in an age of high speed downloads, same day deliveries, and on-demand assistants who can be summoned by tapping a button. Though some waiting may still occur the amount of time spent in anticipation seems to be constantly diminishing, and every day a new bevy of upgrades and devices promise that tomorrow things will be even faster. Such speed is comforting for those who feel that they do not have a moment to waste. Patience becomes a luxury for which we do not have time, even as the technologies that claimed they would free us wind up weighing us down.
Yet it is far too simplistic to heap the blame for this situation on technology, as such. True, contemporary technologies may be prominent characters in the drama in which we are embroiled, but as Judy Wajcman argues in her book Pressed for Time, we should not approach technology as though it exists separately from the social, economic, and political factors that shape contemporary society. Indeed, to understand technology today it is necessary to recognize that “temporal demands are not inherent to technology. They are built into our devices by all-too-human schemes and desires” (3). In Wajcman’s view, technology is not the true culprit, nor is it an out-of-control menace. It is instead a convenient distraction from the real forces that make it seem as though there is never enough time.
Wajcman sets a course that refuses to uncritically celebrate technology, whilst simultaneously disavowing the damning of modern machines. She prefers to draw upon “a social shaping approach to technology” (4) which emphasizes that the shape technology takes in a society is influenced by many factors. If current technologies leave us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and unsatisfied it is to our society we must look for causes and solutions – not to the machine.
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