Within the scope of the domestication framework, time can be said to play a role in the shaping of ICTs. There is a growing body of literature that focuses on the issue of time. A distinction should be made at this point in time between studies of time in the context of domestication theory and time in the context of post-modernism, which is related but refers to a distinct body of literature. Time studies examine trends in time usage over various spans, focusing on issues such as gendered experiences of time and children’s experience of time. An important question is raised about the role of new ICTs, to various groups’ scheduling of time and usage of other ICTs.
Time in Domestication: Time orientation and clocking
Domestication framework raises the idea of time orientations. Time orientations can be used to distinguish between various households and invididuals. Time orientations can be reflected in various household items, contact with family, and patterns of friendships. For instance, an individual who furnished their house with a retro decor could be said to have a past time orientation. Time orientations can be applied specifically to ICTs. On an individual level, time orientations could be manifest in the choices that an individual makes regarding ICTs, for instance, if a person enjoys listening to old vinyl albums on their record player, this could be considered to be a past time orientation. On a more general societal level, time orientations can be associated with ICTs. For instance, VHS records could be associated with a past time orientation while DVRs could be associated with a present or even future time orientation.
The other dimension of time in domestication framework involves the idea of clocking. Clocking refers to the manner in which we organize time; how we sequence activities; the frequency and pace of our activities; and how people punctuate time. As we adapt to ICTs, they can influence the manner in which we clock time. For example, if I organize my time around a television program that is going to be broadcast at 8PM, this would be an example of how an ICT (television) influences the manner in which I clock time. ICTs can also provide flexibility in clocking. An example would be a VCR or a DVR, which allows me to time shift when I receive the content.
There are opportunity costs associated with the use of ICTs. People recognize that certain ICT usage is not productive and they could be doing more productive things with their time than using ICTs. Time spent away from ICTs with friends and family is another consideration in limiting consumption of ICTs. Research into time constraints by Haddon (1999, 2004) indicates there are limits set on Internet usage due to non-ICT social commitments. Apart from questions of finding free disposable time for ICT use, the organization of institutional time presents another variable that affects the manner in which we temporally structure ICTs into our everyday lives.
A study by Lelong and Beaudouin (2001) reveals how use of the telephone was shaped by institutional forces such as work, when shops are open, and when transport and other public services operate. Phone calls are influenced by the timing of work and of school. Furthermore, the issue of synchronicity becomes important as even people with non-structural influences need to wait until those with structural influences are available. There were also social codes, which dictated that one should not use the phone after 10PM. This study also showed that Internet users avoid going online earlier in the evening in order to keep the phone lines free, and because the early evening was time intended for the family. After 10PM, Internet traffic rose.
Other studies show how we can use ICTs to “fill in the time.” Studies of mobile phone practices reveal how we fill spare moments with additional communications. This related to a body of literature on “time stress,” a phenomenon that occurrs because people use time more intensely and multitask more.
Social Consequences of ICTs for Time
Time cultures have been classified as monochronic time cultures, which have a greater emphasis on being on time and doing one thing at a time; and polychronic time cultures, which change plans more frequently and do multiple things at once. There is a cultural component to this, as certain cultures (perhaps Eastern cultures) may be shifting towards polychronic time cultures but still emphasize the importance of being on time; whereas other cultures, such as Western cultures, may show more flexibility in engaging in polychronic cultural norms.
Placement of ICTs in the Home
PCs are sometimes located in a public space within the home or in a semi-private space such as the living room. It is sometimes used to create a shared resource and other times, it is used to control access. Ling and Thrane (2001) found that families had difficulty when placing the PC within the household. The living room was sometimes felt to be inappropriate because the PC symbolized the workplace and this was inappropriate for placement within the living room. Respondents also mentioned the negative aesthetic traits of the PC so even when it was placed in the living room, it was hidden from plain sight.
ICTs in public spaces
There are ongoing negotiations about the degree to which physical spaces are deemed to be more public or private. This leads to expectations of acceptable behavior in these places. There are institutional forces that dictate what is appropriate and inappropriate; and what is even legal or non-legal in certain spaces. A study by Ito (2005) showed the mobile e-mail was extremely popular among Japanese youth because of the strong regulations on voice telephony in schools and public places.
Haddon, L. (1999) European Perceptions and Use of the Internet, paper for the conference Usages and Services in Telecommunications, Arcachon, 7-9 June.
Haddon, L. (2004) Information and Communication Technologies in Everyday Life: A Concise Introduction and Research Guide, Berg, Oxford (Chap.6, second half of Chap 7).
Ito, M. (2005) ‘Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth and the Replacement of Social Contact’, in Ling, R. and Pedersen, P. (eds) Mobile Communications: Renegotiation of the Social Sphere, Springer, London, pp.131-48.
Ling, R. and Thrane, K. (2001) “It actually separates us a little bit, but I think that is an advantage”: The Management of Electronic Media in Norwegian Households. Paper for the conference ‘e-Usages’, Paris, 12-14th June.