The Digital Architecture of Time Management

CSTMS Colloquia

There is a widespread assumption that digital technologies are radically altering our perception of time: that we live too fast, that time is scarce and that the pace of everyday life is accelerating beyond our control. The iconic image that abounds is that of the frenetic, technologically tethered, iPhone-addicted citizen.

Paradoxically, digital devices are seen as both the cause of time pressure as well as the solution. This talk will argue that while there is no temporal logic inherent in technologies, artifacts do play a central role in the constitution of time regimes. We make time with machines.

I will illustrate this argument by exploring the vision of ‘intelligent’ time management that drives the design of digital calendars. Drawing on interviews with software engineers, I will argue that the shift from print to electronic calendars embodies a longstanding belief that technology can be can be profitably employed to control and manage time. This belief continues to animate contemporary sociotechnical imaginaries of what automation will deliver. In the current moment, calendars are increasingly conceived of as digital assistants whose behavioural algorithms can solve life’s existential problem – how best to organise the time of our lives. In sum, the aim here is to contribute to STS scholarship on the role of technology in shaping people’s experience of time.This event is co-sponsored by BIDS.

CSTMS Colloquia host invited speakers representing a wide range of research interests from around the world. They are often live-streamed, and you are welcome to watch when they are.


Judy Wajcman

Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Judy Wajcman is the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She joined the LSE as Head of the Sociology Department in 2009. She was previously Professor of Sociology in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. She has held posts in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sydney, Tokyo, Vienna, Warwick and Zurich. She was formerly a Centennial Professor at the LSE, a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Women in Business at London Business School. She was President of the Society for Social Studies of Science (2009-2011) and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute. Her work has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Greek, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Professor Wajcman's scholarly interests encompass the sociology of work and employment, science and technology studies, gender theory, and organizational analysis. Her current research engages with theories about the impact of digital technologies on time poverty and the speeding up of everyday life. She is the 2013 recipient of the William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award of the American Sociological Association. This award recognizes a sustained body of research that has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the area of the sociology of communications or information technology. Professor Wajcman has an honorary doctorate from the University of Geneva. In 2016, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

Professor Wajcman is currently holding a fellowship with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2017-18), focussing on the politics of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning.