Time and Control

There seems to be a general assumption that clocks were invented to control people, as part of the industrialisation of the west, etc. but as ‘Shaping the Day’ by Paul Glennie & Nigel Thrift explain, the truth is far more complicated.

Time keeping existed about 3,000 years ago, but it was in 2 forms. The one used by astronomers divided the day into degrees of rotation of the earth, each hour was of equal length, so made it possible to map the heavens; they used water or sand clocks to measure small amounts of time for accuracy. But most people, especially clerics, rose with the sun and went to bed when it set, so their days were divided into units of daylight, which varied with the seasons. So they used sun dials of some sort. It was generally assumed that noon was a constant, so could be used for navigation, but as the earth revolves around the sun, noon actually changes by over 15 minutes, so when clocks were eventually invented, they used sundials to correct them, but they also needed to do calculations in order to get the correct time for noon for the time of the year.
So this book really needs to be taken slowly, as it turns so many ideas of time upside down. People have always had timekeeping as part of their lives. It was not invented by modern time keeping, and the measurement of time needs to be seen as part of social behaviour rather than mere pieces of mechanism.

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