Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Why Digital Clocks Fail

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Why Digital Clocks Fail

Article excerpt

Anyone confronting a digital timepiece reckons with the oddly subtle way it restructures time. The concept "ten minutes from now," for example, becomes difficult if not paradoxical to measure. The statement "it's approximately" gives way to an exact expression of information such as "it's seven fifty-seven."

One of the major characteristics of this medium (and in the computer also) lies in its ability to limit something, in this case time, by fixating on preciseness. Unlike the circular, analog clock, which shows time in relation to its past and future, the digital clock reconfigures time only in relation to another precise unit of information. In this system, the raw message - i.e., the time - appears from out of an electrical void. With the circular clock, however, time is read out of its total context.

Problems arise with the digital clock because it replaces the tyranny of being unstuck in time with that of being stuck in time. The symbolic value of the circle, or the whole, becomes replaced by the abstractness of the digit, or fragment. Since past and future lie outside the reality of digital time, the present becomes nothing more than a systematic restatement of itself. Time, or more specifically the present to which it is reduced, becomes groundless. One present appears over another which, in turn, gets displaced by another and another.

With content thus divorced from context, one becomes detached from the stream of time. Meaning becomes overly isolated. …

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