Command tones: Digitization and sounded time

Jonathan Sterne, Emily Raine


Keeping time is a crucial aspect of governance. Timekeeping orchestrates individual and collective activity and shapes relations between individuals and institutions, between institutions, and within networks of individuals. Though some aspects of time, such as time zones, are nationally and internationally regulated, the regulation of time is often a case where governance extends far beyond government. This “experiment in theory” provides an account of the role of sound in orchestrating social action, and then uses a long history of sounded time to situate a short history of sounded digital time. Though the project is deliberately speculative, it suggests an important hypothesis: Rather than splitting the world into “real” and “virtual” domains of perceived experience, digital technologies might better be considered in terms of the disconnect between the perceived and imperceptible modalities through which they organize social practice.

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