Brake for thought

July 25, 2013

How refreshing to read Thomas Docherty’s plea for a new relationship with time, efficiency and (implicitly) technology in the academy (“Rushing to bad judgement: need for speed kills learning”, 18 July).

It was Karl Marx who insightfully wrote of capitalism’s inherent tendency to “annihilate space by time”, and our sometimes fraught individual and collective relationship with technology is one that all students should have time and space to explore.

Here’s a radical proposal: does any university have the courage to introduce a compulsory first semester for all its degrees that looks at our relationship with time and the breathless momentum of modern technology? Such a module would have the likes of James Gleick’s Faster, Martin Heidegger’s History of the Concept of Time and The Question Concerning Technology, Paul Virilio’s Speed and Politics, William Meissner’s Time, Self, and Psychoanalysis and Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow on its core reading list. Then, perhaps, a deep, thoughtful engagement with the postmodern paradoxes that “less is more” and “slower is faster” might generate a new generation of citizens able to bring a critically reflexive perspective to our vexed relationship with time and our hyper-modern “communication” technologies. For as Mahatma Gandhi famously had it, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Richard House
Department of education studies and liberal arts
University of Winchester

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