Previously, we listed the themes the Ego Media team will cover in the essays in our digital publication. This week, we’re highlighting our work on Time. The lead author of this essay is Professor Clare Brant, and this post offers a brief outline of some of the questions the essay will explore.

selfie of Clare Brant with mountains in the background

Time, Clare writes, “is arguably one of the most important concepts in digital and social media”, and this theme essay reflects on our ideas of and research into the phenomenon of time, investigating how the digital age privileges immediacy and the present tense, the “what’s happening”, rather than the what has happened, or will happen. The main areas we will explore in this essay include:

The global reach of digital time

The local offices of international businesses often had several analogue clocks on their walls, showing the time in, say, London, New York and Tokyo. Now a few clicks brings us three time zones on our smartphones or laptops. What does global digital time do to our sense of time? Our bodily rhythms?

Always on, or the rise of 24-7

What’s the relationship between always on-ness and authenticity? How can you find the most interesting 24-7 webcam accounts … and how interesting are they?

Time and space

How does digital time – and our attention to it – impact on our relationship with space? How can we navigate effectively when we’re looking down at our phones. And what about the physical space (and energy resources) required to service those giant data centres powering our online experiences, and concealed the “Cloud” and other nature-friendly metaphors.

Breaking news: ‘happening now’

While Facebook’s timeline colonises the (recent) past, and its “memories” hoik past moments into present attention, Twitter’s “What’s happening?” occupies its users’ now. What’s happening to those of us living in a world where news is constantly breaking? What does it mean when news breaks?


hand holding phone showing time & date
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Streaming services allow us to watch, when we want: to make media, at least. happen in a “now” of our choosing. What does this do to our sense of “what’s happening”.


We surveil ourselves and others via health apps and social media and are surveilled. What light can surveillance art – the use of technology intended to record human behaviour in a way that offers commentary on the process and tools of surveillance – tell us about not only about power, control and the attractions of voyeurism, but also the nature of time?

Time short, long, too much, compressed

Have you read this far down the page? How long are our attention spans? How long do we take to decide whether something is worth devoting our time (attention and money) to? What impact does adding reading times to an online text have on people reading that text? #longreads, short forms and acronyms: how has the way we read – the way we think – changed with digital time? How far have digital media have recreated ideas and practices of instaneity?

And finally…

To what extent is the Ego Media team’s research complicit with particular models of time in terms of choice of methodologies? The interview, for instance, catalyses retrospection in relation to a present established and bracketed by the interview itself; the questionnaire similarly plays on a time transactionality between actions (past and present) and reportage (necessarily presentist.) Academic arguments tend to acquire authority by referencing arguments made authoritative by being recently published: given this, how far have scholars anticipated social media users in valuing keeping up with the latest?

Ego Media projects with an explicit time focus

Moving Past Present
Imagining the Future
Dear Diary
Life-writing of the moment: The Sharing and updating self on social media
The Use of Self-Tracking Technologies and Social Media in Self-Representations and Management of Health

Watch Professor Clare Brant talk about her Ego Media projects

Written by:

Dr Lisa Gee is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the Ego-Media Project