Hall (1984). Experiencing Time. (The dance of life: The other dimension of time.)

Hall, E. T. (1984). Experiencing Time. In The dance of life: The other dimension of time (pp. 127–152). Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

“… Bronze Age … At first, this knowledge was esoteric and held in the hands of a precious few who controlled knowledge and kept the secrets. During these early periods, time centered in the universe and in nature. The units were large. A day or half-day (before or after midday) were the smallest units of time. The week was unknown, months were merely a succession, and the knowledge of the exact day on which the winter solstice took place was in most societies restricted to one or two men, or to a small priesthood in the larger societies.” (p 128)

“It is the clock that is primarily responsible for our preoccupation with variable time (time dragging and time flying), which is the central theme of this chapter. It was the clock that provided an external standard against which to judge the passage of time — to determine whether it was ‘racing’ or ‘crawling.’ Until then, people’s internal clocks moved fast and slow, and usually in unison, so that few possessed an awareness of the speed at which time was passing.” (p 129)

“Examples among the less-evolved life forms are spider webs, bird nests, and territorial markers. Mankind has evolved its extensions to such a point that they are beginning to take over the world and may ultimately make life impossible unless they are better understood.4” (p 129)

“Extensions are remarkable because they can be evolved at virtually any speed, whereas life itself is the product of small accumulative changes in which the generation is the shortest interval in which genetic changes may occur.” (p 130)

“Extensions are a particular kind of tool that not only speed up work and make it easier but also separate people from their work. Extensions are a special kind of amplifier, and in the process of amplification, important details are frequently left out. What gets left out is largely a matter of chance and sometimes what is left out may be more important than what is amplified.” (p 130)

[McLuhan discussed “extensions” in 1966 …]

“Examples of extensions are: the telephone extending the human voice, television extending both the eye and the ear, cranes extending the hand and the arm and the back, computers extending the memory and some of the arithmetic parts of the central nervous system, telescopes and microscopes extending the lens of the eye, cameras extending the visual memory, knives extending the cutting and biting capabilities of the teeth and fingernails, and automobiles extending our legs and feet.” (p 130-131)

“There is one more point to be made, and that is that whenever something is extended, the extension begins to take on a life of its own and quickly becomes confused with the reality it replaces. Language is an excellent example. … semantics.5 Korzybski stressed that the word is not the thing, it is only a symbol. … It would seem that human beings must learn over and over again that the map is not the terrain.” (p 131)

“This principle is illustrated by the way in which we have taken our own biological clocks, moved them outside ourselves, and then treated the extensions as though they represented the only reality. … Because of extension transference, the schedule is the reality and people and their needs are not considered.” (p 131)

[“Time Passing and Time Dragging” (p 131) …]

[“What Literature Can Teach Us” (p 134) …]

“James Joyce sees us imprisoned by the ‘narrow confines of linear time.’ Joyce’s protagonist Stephen Dedalus thought it was impossible to separate the clock from the experience of the viewer. … What most of these writers really did was use time as a tool to pin down consciousness.” (p 134)

[“Time Compression and Time Expansion” (p 135) …]

“An example would be the case of Major Russ Stromberg, Navy test pilot, testing the Carrier AV-8C.8” (p 135)

[“Concentration and Time Perception” (p 137) …]

[“Imagery and Time” (p 138) …]

“As children, most of us learned early that there are some persons who can do their arithmetic in their heads, while others solve the same problems outside their bodies with the aid of pencil and paper, or chalk and blackboard. … Teachers happen to prefer the second method because they can see what is going on and correct ‘mistakes.’ It makes them feel useful and in control. The first method, however, is faster and more creative.” (p 139)

[“Age and Time” (p 141) …]

[“Time in Relation to the Size of the Job Ahead” (p 141) …]

[“Piaget” (p 143) …]

“However, there is not even a hint that the entire perceptual process is not only learned and modified by culture but is constantly influenced by context — that the perceived world is a transaction!16 … [page break] … When Piaget studied the child learning the basics of time and space, he did not realize that the child was also learning our own system of logic. There must be hundreds of different systems of logic in the world, some of them high context, some of them low, some in between. Most of them are learned. Like all extensions, these logic systems leave things out. Our system in its most developed form leaves out context, and that is a very significant omission, indeed.” (p 144)

“Mood and psychological states have an incredible effect upon the experience of the passage of time.” (p 145)

[“Mood and Time” (p 145) …]

“Professor Hudson Hoagland, a famous physiologist who taught for years at Clark University, discovered that body temperature affects the perception of time…” (p 145)

[“Anniversaries” (p 146) …]

[“Emotions, Psychic State, and Time” (p 146) …]

“It is extraordinary and paradoxical that the very activities that are most rewarding and satisfying are those in which time is experienced as passing with extreme rapidity or in which the sense of time has been lost completely.” (p 148)

[“The Perception of Time as Mediated by Space” (p 148) …]

“The perception of time is not only influenced by the multiple factors mentioned earlier, but by the scale of the environment as well.” (p 148)

“An environment reduced to 1/6 of normal size can actually program the central nervous system in such a way that subjects who project themselves into that environment will hold their own internal time perception constant. This adjustment process results in a compensating speedup in the processing of information by a factor of six. What is experienced as one hour’s work in the model is actually only ten minutes by the clock. Using a 1:12 scale, the experience of an hour’s work takes five minutes of ‘real time.’25” (p 149)

[“Estimating Real Time” (p 151) …]

Selected Notes

  • 4. A work in progress is devoted to this extraordinary subject.
  • 5. Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity, 1948.
  • 8. Washington Post Magazine, November 9, 1980, article by Walter Shapiro.
  • 16. Franklin P. Kilpatrick. See notes 22 and 28 below, also my books The Hidden Dimension and Beyond Culture.
  • 25. Alton De Long, “The Use of Scale Models in Spatial-Behavioral Research,” 1976; “Spatial Scale and Perceived Time-Frames,” n.d.; with J. F. Lubar, “Scale and Neurological Function,” 1978.

Additional References

  • McLuhan, H. M. (1966). Understanding media: The extensions of man (2nd edition). New York: Signet Books.
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