Stereochron Island. A place outside ordinary time
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WELCOME TO STEREOCHRON
Imagine an island without clocks. Its people tell time by the movement of shadows, the pattern of birdsong, the swelling of buds. But often they forget about time altogether, lingering in its gardens, daydreaming on its winding paths, playing in its fields. This is a place set apart from ordinary time. This is Stereochron Island.     
  
Stereochron is an independent territory whose location in the Solar System exactly matches that of Victoria Park in East London (see About).
Its island commonwealth protects varieties of time that may be under threat of extinction by the mechanical clock, particularly in surrounding dominions. Stereochron is therefore campaigning to become officially recognised as a State Without Clocks. 
To support this effort, Stereochron has commissioned a series of field studies from independent experts. From April to August 2014 (Mechanical Time), they’ll investigate the rarer kinds of time sheltered by its unusual habitat. If you’d like to join those studies, see Events.
This blog documents the field studies. It also offers opinion pieces from our campaign secretary. Future posts are planned on, for example, what life might be like if we banished the word Time.
To be informed of new posts, click Follow (below right).

 
[Map image: via]

WELCOME TO STEREOCHRON

Imagine an island without clocks. Its people tell time by the movement of shadows, the pattern of birdsong, the swelling of buds. But often they forget about time altogether, lingering in its gardens, daydreaming on its winding paths, playing in its fields. This is a place set apart from ordinary time. This is Stereochron Island.     

  

Stereochron is an independent territory whose location in the Solar System exactly matches that of Victoria Park in East London (see About).

Its island commonwealth protects varieties of time that may be under threat of extinction by the mechanical clock, particularly in surrounding dominions. Stereochron is therefore campaigning to become officially recognised as a State Without Clocks. 

To support this effort, Stereochron has commissioned a series of field studies from independent experts. From April to August 2014 (Mechanical Time), they’ll investigate the rarer kinds of time sheltered by its unusual habitat. If you’d like to join those studies, see Events.

This blog documents the field studies. It also offers opinion pieces from our campaign secretary. Future posts are planned on, for example, what life might be like if we banished the word Time.

To be informed of new posts, click Follow (below right).

 

[Map image: via]

SHEEP’S EYE CLOCK

In preparation for our final field study, Dusk Falls on Stereochron (13 August), we’ve been investigating the effects of dusk on plants and the senses. Here’s a further addition to Stereochron’s alternative clock.

It’s said that shepherds can tell the time of day by the shape of their flock’s pupils: narrow and pill-shaped during the day; turning spherical at dusk. Last weekend the campaign secretary went off the Island to a farm to test this. She took the first of these photos at the start of twilight and the second 50mins later, when the light was fading quickly. 

Some local people recall being lulled to sleep as children by the distant bleating of sheep on the Island as night fell. This and the sheep’s potential role in the Stereochron clock are reasons alone to bring a resident flock back to the Island after an absence of some sixty years. 

24 SIGNS TO TELL TIME OVER 24 HOURS WITHOUT A CLOCK

 

A STEREOCHRON DAWN

On Saturday 26 April 2014, more than forty of us gathered outside the south-western gates of the Island at 4.30am. We were there to hear the dawn chorus and make a field study of bird-time, one of the rarer kinds protected by Stereochron. This recording captures ecologist Peter Beckenham leading us through it.

LISTEN HERE (24 mins)

Stereochron had commissioned Peter to help us explore how birds tell time and how we can tell time by the birds. What we hadn’t anticipated is the overwhelming intensity of the Spring dawn here. As Peter explained, the bird chorus rises in a layered crescendo, beginning with the solitary pre-dawn song of the blackbird and peaking with the late-rising gull adding to the waking calls of about a dozen other species common to the Island.

It wasn’t easy to tell between the song of the robin, blackcap and goldcrest. Some of us strained to hear the subtle gradations of the bird-clock. Peter passed on advice that had helped him: at first learn to identify five common species, then you can refine your awareness of the differences that distinguish the rest. As a practical aid, he recommended this collection of birdsong

Something else in the Stereochron dawn surprised us: the impact of the changing light. Setting off, we left the sodium-orange murk fringing the Island and plunged into its darkness. Dawn came quickly as a swelling pool of grey that yellowed till it threw an amber cast over the treetops. The horse chestnut candelabra seemed to be glowing. Meanwhile the chorus was gaining voice. As the sweet and ugly clamour of robins and crows set the air trembling a little, a pink rainbow appeared above us. We had entered a new Narnia. Large pink birds now began circling. After struggling with this sight for a moment, we recognised them as gulls lit by a red Sun that also caught the head of a cormorant (above).

The Stereochron dawn revealed how shifts in light and hue make up another clock. This is easy to forget in the perpetually lit, artificially coloured Monochronic states, where all hours and days seem equal. You could say that dawn simply reverses the order of light changes that we’re used to at sunset (give or take some differences due to atmospheric conditions). But, in the absence of distraction and familiarity, the dawn-clock seemed more powerful, plunging us more deeply into another sense of time.

When it was over and we headed off the Island in broad daylight at around 6am, the previous day felt a long time ago. So much had happened, so many shifts in light and sound, it was as if we had passed through an accelerated cycle of night and day. Living just briefly like this by bird- and light-clocks had stretched and deepened a standard hour and a half into something much more expansive. For future debate by the committee: Do these kinds of clock give us more time by immersing us in it rather than meting it out tick by tock?

  

 

For Peter Beckenham’s blog, visit here.

PHOTOS: 1st, 3rd, 6th and 7th images by Emma Ridgway; all others by Maria Eisl.

AUDIO: production and editing by Tickertape.

WHAT WORDS SHOULD BE IN OUR DICTIONARY OF TIME?
On Stereochron Island we’re weaning ourselves off mechanical horologes by attuning our faculties to other ways of keeping time. 
A core initiative of our campaign is to expand and refine the Island’s word-stock for time-related topics. This is so we can lay description and detail over the blunt and content-less standard vocabulary of hours, minutes and seconds. 
Our inventory of alternative Time words grows with each new conversation and field study. If you have suggestions to add, please email mail[at]chisenhale.org.uk with the subject header ‘Stereochron vocab’.

ANTHROPOCENE: The current geological epoch, defined by the dominant influence of human activity on the Earth’s environment and climate.
ASEASONAL: Not seasonal.
ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT: When the Sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. This is the period of first light in the morning and when the sky is almost dark in the evening. See Civil and Nautical Twilight.
BLUE HOUR, THE: The unspecific period of Twilight when natural light appears to have a strong blue hue.
BORROWED LIGHT (archaic): Artificial light. 
CHANGE: The process of transformation, of becoming something other.
CHRONOBIOLOGY: The science of body clocks or biological circadian rhythms.
CHRONOTYPE: A particular individual’s type of body clock or circadian cycle.
CIRCADIAN: Happening in a cycle that follows the time the Earth takes to circle the Sun (i.e. occurring in an approximately 24 standard-hour cycle). 
CIVIL TWILIGHT: When the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. Civil Twilight is the lightest portion of Twilight. It precedes Dawn and follows Sunset. See Astronomical and Nautical Twilight.
COCK-CROW (archaic): The period shortly before Dawn. 
COCKNEY (Cockney): Time. Derived from “Time” rhymed with “Cockney Rhyme”. For example, “Have you got the Cockney?”
CONTEXT-SPECIFIC TIME: The term given to time judged by local processes and events, rather than by an external or abstract measure such as the standard clock. 
CREPUSCULAR: Of Twilight; the adjective to describe animals and other entities associated with Twilight.
DARKLING (archaic): Darkening; potentially dangerous.
DAWN: The first light that ushers in Astronomical Twilight. 
DEADLINE: Time limit. Originally the prison camp term for its outer limit. Guards were instructed to shoot any prisoner who crossed the deadline.
DEAD OF NIGHT, THE: Anciently, the period of night after midnight and before first light, considered to be the darkest point in the circadian cycle. See Intempesta.
DIURNAL: Active during the day and sleeping at night. Used to define typical human behaviour. Antonym: nocturnal.
DUSK: The darkest point of Twilight, on the cusp of Night.
ECOZOIC ERA: Thomas Berry's term for a future in which “human conduct will be guided by the ideal of an integral earth community [that includes] all the human and non-human components that constitute the planet Earth”. 
EQUINOX: The twice-yearly date on which day and night are of equal length.
EREMOZOIC ERA: EO Wilson's term for the Age of Loneliness, a future biological epoch where human activity extinguishes nearly all life on Earth (The Creation, 2006).
ENTROPY: Without order, predictability; gradual decay; slow disintegration into disorder.
ESCHATOLOGY (Christian traditions): Belief(s) regarding the events that will end the world or human history.
ETERNAL: Without change; without end.
FIRST SLEEP: According to historian A. Roger Ekirch, the first of two sleeps that pre-industrial people would take each night. His research suggests that the roughly hour-long interval of wakefulness following first sleep was a time for watchfulness, prayer, reflection, dream interpretation and sex.
GIBBOUS: The adjective describing a moon that is more than half full.
GLOAMING: Twilight or Dusk.
GÖKOTTA (Swedish, pronounced yo’-kOt-tah): The act of rising early to hear the first birdsong; a dawn picnic.
GOLDEN HOUR, THE: The unspecific period of time following Sunrise or preceding Sunset when light takes on a reddish hue.
GRACE NOTE: An ornamental musical note added without fixed beat or duration to a composition.
GREENWICH MEAN TIME (GMT): The average local solar time at Greenwich in London. GMT gives accurate local solar time for Greenwich on just four days of the year.
HANAMI (Japanese): The ritual of taking time to enjoy the ephemeral beauty of flowers, most often cherry blossom. Hanami may take the form of a pilgrimage following the wave of flowering trees as the Spring thaw travels north.
HARVEST MOON: When the full moon casts light for longer periods around the Autumn Equinox in September.
HEARTBEAT: One pulsation of the heart; perhaps the first and principle measure of time for all animals; a fleeting moment; a unifying or animating force. Statistically speaking, all animals live for roughly a billion heartbeats (SJ Gould). Exceptions include humans who live for approximately three billion.
HISTORY: Time as it is lived.
HOROLOGE: A timepiece, such as a clock.
INTEMPESTA (Latin): The name given by the ancient Romans to the period of the night between midnight and first light. Literally, time without time. See Dead of Night and Witching Hour.
JIFFY: A short while. Possibly from slang for lightening.
PEAR JUNE DROP: The season when pear trees naturally release their least promising fruit.
KAIROS (Greek): The timely or opportune moment; the right time; the weather.
KODAWARI (Japanese): The mindful and rigorous honing of a craft over time towards perfection.
LATE: After the appointed, expected or proper time. See its antonyms Timely and Kairos.
MIDDAY: The exact moment when the Sun is highest in the sky above a given place. This defines local solar noon. (Greenwich local solar noon matches GMT noon on only four days of the year. Hence the Mean in GMT.)
MIDNIGHT: Exactly half way between Sunrise and Sunset.
MIDSUMMER’s Day: See Summer Solstice.
MONOCHRONIC (Island dialect): An adjective to describe: time reduced to a commodity (as in “Time is Money”); time lived focusing on future outcomes with less value given to the present; the measurements of the mechanical clock, particularly those dissociated from solar, lunar or biological rhythms; regimes of time that enforce any or all of the above. See its antonym Stereochronic.
MURMURATION: The name given to the twilight dance made by thousands of starlings coming together to roost at predictable times of the day.
NAUTICAL TWILIGHT: When the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon, and the rough shape of objects can still be made out. This follows Civil Twilight in the evening, and Astronomical Twilight in the morning. 
NIGHT FOGS (archaic): The miasma that was thought to drop from the sky with nightfall.
NOCTAMBULIST: Sleep walker.
NOON: See Midday.
O——
PENUMBRA: In partial shadow. During a solar eclipse, a person in penumbra sees a partial eclipse. From the Latin paene (almost) and umbra (shadow).
PIG (archaic): A verb to describe sharing a bed with others who may or may not be members of one’s immediate family, as was common practice. For example, “Five of us pigged in one wide bed”.
PIT-MURK (archaic): The deep blackness of a moonless night.
POST MERIDIEM (Latin): After Midday, commonly written as PM. (AM stands for Ante Meridiem, before Midday.)
PROCRASTINATION: Doing less urgent, easier or more pleasing tasks rather than those which require greater immediacy, effort or difficulty. 
Q——
RETROMANCY: Divination (attempting to read the future from supernatural signs) by looking over your shoulder. Perhaps related to the ancient idea that the future lay behind and the past in front of you. 
RHAPSODY: A free-flowing composition or narrative that combines highly contrasting and unpredictable elements and registers, in contrast to a unified form progressing through predictable stages.
SEASON: A division of time. Today, most commonly used to describe natural climatic periods resulting from the Earth’s changing orbit of the Sun. Formerly used more broadly to refer to a particular time characterised by a distinct set of qualities. For example, night-time was also known as the night-season.
SOLAR TIME: Time measured by when the Sun is highest in the sky above a particular place at noon. As opposed to standard time, which is an ideal measure based on averages. See Greenwich Mean Time.
SUMMER SOLSTICE: One of two days of the year on which the Sun seems to change direction. On this day the Sun appears at its highest point in the sky for the year. After this date the days grow shorter. From the Latin Sol (Sun) and Sistere (to stand still). Also known as Midsummer’s Day. See Winter Solstice.
SPRING TIDE: The time when the ocean tide differs most between its highest and lowest due to the relationship between Earth, Moon and Sun. The term does not refer to the solar season, but to the tide seeming to “spring out”. 
STEREOCHRONIC (Island dialect): An adjective to describe: multiple and varied states of time; time fully lived; time not defined by the mechanical clock but by local events and processes. See its antonym Monochronic.
SUNRISE: When the Sun rises above the horizon, marking the end of Civil Twilight.
TAX YEAR: In the UK, the financial year that starts on 6 April. This apparently arbitrary administrative date derives from the old New Year, which fell on Spring Equinox. It became detached from the true solar date of Spring Equinox in transition to the Gregorian Calendar.
TEMPONAUT: Time traveller.
TEMPS, LE (French): Time; the weather.
TIDE (archaic): A duration; a season; a repeated action or event; a fitting time; a defined period (eg, eventide or Yuletide).
TIDEFUL (archaic): Opportune, convenient, timely.
TIDY (archaic): In tide; in season; in time; timely.
TIMELY: Happening at the proper time.
TROPICAL YEAR: A solar year. The time it takes for the Sun to return to the same position, as perceived from Earth. For example, from Summer Solstice to Summer Solstice.
TWILIGHT: The interval between Sunset and Nightfall, when the Sun sinks below the horizon but still lights the sky.
TWILIGHT REST (archaic): The period of the Scandanavian day when it is too dark to work but considered too early to light a lamp.
U——
V——
WANING: To describe the Moon when it seems to be growing smaller.
WAXING: To describe the Moon when it seems to be growing bigger.
WIDDERSHINS (Early Modern English): The act of moving anti-clockwise against the apparent course of the Sun; running counter to good sense. (It was once considered bad luck to move widdershins round a church.)
WINTER SOLSTICE: The day of the year when, in Britain and other latitudes, the Sun appears to change direction in the sky and the days start to become longer. See Summer Solstice.
WITCHING HOUR, THE: Midnight, when anciently witches and spirits were thought most likely to appear.
X——
Y——
ZEMAN (Hebrew): Time, as in the abstract standard entity against which we measure events; formerly, appointment, as in time defined by lived events. See Context-Specific Time.
ZEITGEBER (German): An environmental time trigger. For example, the dipping of the Sun below the horizon, which signals time to sleep for the body clock of a diurnal animal. Literally, time-giver. 
ZEITGEIST (German): The spirit of the times.
ZUGENRUHE (German): The restlessness that tugs at birds to migrate back to their nesting grounds for Spring.



 
 
 

WHAT WORDS SHOULD BE IN OUR DICTIONARY OF TIME?

On Stereochron Island we’re weaning ourselves off mechanical horologes by attuning our faculties to other ways of keeping time.

A core initiative of our campaign is to expand and refine the Island’s word-stock for time-related topics. This is so we can lay description and detail over the blunt and content-less standard vocabulary of hours, minutes and seconds.

Our inventory of alternative Time words grows with each new conversation and field studyIf you have suggestions to add, please email mail[at]chisenhale.org.uk with the subject header ‘Stereochron vocab’.

ANTHROPOCENE: The current geological epoch, defined by the dominant influence of human activity on the Earth’s environment and climate.

ASEASONAL: Not seasonal.

ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT: When the Sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. This is the period of first light in the morning and when the sky is almost dark in the evening. See Civil and Nautical Twilight.

BLUE HOUR, THE: The unspecific period of Twilight when natural light appears to have a strong blue hue.

BORROWED LIGHT (archaic): Artificial light. 

CHANGE: The process of transformation, of becoming something other.

CHRONOBIOLOGY: The science of body clocks or biological circadian rhythms.

CHRONOTYPE: A particular individual’s type of body clock or circadian cycle.

CIRCADIAN: Happening in a cycle that follows the time the Earth takes to circle the Sun (i.e. occurring in an approximately 24 standard-hour cycle). 

CIVIL TWILIGHT: When the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. Civil Twilight is the lightest portion of Twilight. It precedes Dawn and follows Sunset. See Astronomical and Nautical Twilight.

COCK-CROW (archaic): The period shortly before Dawn. 

COCKNEY (Cockney): Time. Derived from “Time” rhymed with “Cockney Rhyme”. For example, “Have you got the Cockney?”

CONTEXT-SPECIFIC TIME: The term given to time judged by local processes and events, rather than by an external or abstract measure such as the standard clock. 

CREPUSCULAR: Of Twilight; the adjective to describe animals and other entities associated with Twilight.

DARKLING (archaic): Darkening; potentially dangerous.

DAWN: The first light that ushers in Astronomical Twilight. 

DEADLINE: Time limit. Originally the prison camp term for its outer limit. Guards were instructed to shoot any prisoner who crossed the deadline.

DEAD OF NIGHT, THE: Anciently, the period of night after midnight and before first light, considered to be the darkest point in the circadian cycle. See Intempesta.

DIURNAL: Active during the day and sleeping at night. Used to define typical human behaviour. Antonym: nocturnal.

DUSK: The darkest point of Twilight, on the cusp of Night.

ECOZOIC ERA: Thomas Berry's term for a future in which “human conduct will be guided by the ideal of an integral earth community [that includes] all the human and non-human components that constitute the planet Earth”. 

EQUINOX: The twice-yearly date on which day and night are of equal length.

EREMOZOIC ERA: EO Wilson's term for the Age of Loneliness, a future biological epoch where human activity extinguishes nearly all life on Earth (The Creation, 2006).

ENTROPY: Without order, predictability; gradual decay; slow disintegration into disorder.

ESCHATOLOGY (Christian traditions): Belief(s) regarding the events that will end the world or human history.

ETERNAL: Without change; without end.

FIRST SLEEP: According to historian A. Roger Ekirch, the first of two sleeps that pre-industrial people would take each night. His research suggests that the roughly hour-long interval of wakefulness following first sleep was a time for watchfulness, prayer, reflection, dream interpretation and sex.

GIBBOUS: The adjective describing a moon that is more than half full.

GLOAMING: Twilight or Dusk.

GÖKOTTA (Swedish, pronounced yo’-kOt-tah): The act of rising early to hear the first birdsong; a dawn picnic.

GOLDEN HOUR, THE: The unspecific period of time following Sunrise or preceding Sunset when light takes on a reddish hue.

GRACE NOTE: An ornamental musical note added without fixed beat or duration to a composition.

GREENWICH MEAN TIME (GMT): The average local solar time at Greenwich in London. GMT gives accurate local solar time for Greenwich on just four days of the year.

HANAMI (Japanese): The ritual of taking time to enjoy the ephemeral beauty of flowers, most often cherry blossom. Hanami may take the form of a pilgrimage following the wave of flowering trees as the Spring thaw travels north.

HARVEST MOON: When the full moon casts light for longer periods around the Autumn Equinox in September.

HEARTBEAT: One pulsation of the heart; perhaps the first and principle measure of time for all animals; a fleeting moment; a unifying or animating force. Statistically speaking, all animals live for roughly a billion heartbeats (SJ Gould). Exceptions include humans who live for approximately three billion.

HISTORY: Time as it is lived.

HOROLOGE: A timepiece, such as a clock.

INTEMPESTA (Latin): The name given by the ancient Romans to the period of the night between midnight and first light. Literally, time without time. See Dead of Night and Witching Hour.

JIFFY: A short while. Possibly from slang for lightening.

PEAR JUNE DROP: The season when pear trees naturally release their least promising fruit.

KAIROS (Greek): The timely or opportune moment; the right time; the weather.

KODAWARI (Japanese): The mindful and rigorous honing of a craft over time towards perfection.

LATE: After the appointed, expected or proper time. See its antonyms Timely and Kairos.

MIDDAY: The exact moment when the Sun is highest in the sky above a given place. This defines local solar noon. (Greenwich local solar noon matches GMT noon on only four days of the year. Hence the Mean in GMT.)

MIDNIGHT: Exactly half way between Sunrise and Sunset.

MIDSUMMER’s Day: See Summer Solstice.

MONOCHRONIC (Island dialect): An adjective to describe: time reduced to a commodity (as in “Time is Money”); time lived focusing on future outcomes with less value given to the present; the measurements of the mechanical clock, particularly those dissociated from solar, lunar or biological rhythms; regimes of time that enforce any or all of the above. See its antonym Stereochronic.

MURMURATION: The name given to the twilight dance made by thousands of starlings coming together to roost at predictable times of the day.

NAUTICAL TWILIGHT: When the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon, and the rough shape of objects can still be made out. This follows Civil Twilight in the evening, and Astronomical Twilight in the morning. 

NIGHT FOGS (archaic): The miasma that was thought to drop from the sky with nightfall.

NOCTAMBULIST: Sleep walker.

NOON: See Midday.

O——

PENUMBRA: In partial shadow. During a solar eclipse, a person in penumbra sees a partial eclipse. From the Latin paene (almost) and umbra (shadow).

PIG (archaic): A verb to describe sharing a bed with others who may or may not be members of one’s immediate family, as was common practice. For example, “Five of us pigged in one wide bed”.

PIT-MURK (archaic): The deep blackness of a moonless night.

POST MERIDIEM (Latin): After Midday, commonly written as PM. (AM stands for Ante Meridiem, before Midday.)

PROCRASTINATION: Doing less urgent, easier or more pleasing tasks rather than those which require greater immediacy, effort or difficulty. 

Q——

RETROMANCY: Divination (attempting to read the future from supernatural signs) by looking over your shoulder. Perhaps related to the ancient idea that the future lay behind and the past in front of you. 

RHAPSODY: A free-flowing composition or narrative that combines highly contrasting and unpredictable elements and registers, in contrast to a unified form progressing through predictable stages.

SEASON: A division of time. Today, most commonly used to describe natural climatic periods resulting from the Earth’s changing orbit of the Sun. Formerly used more broadly to refer to a particular time characterised by a distinct set of qualities. For example, night-time was also known as the night-season.

SOLAR TIME: Time measured by when the Sun is highest in the sky above a particular place at noon. As opposed to standard time, which is an ideal measure based on averages. See Greenwich Mean Time.

SUMMER SOLSTICE: One of two days of the year on which the Sun seems to change direction. On this day the Sun appears at its highest point in the sky for the year. After this date the days grow shorter. From the Latin Sol (Sun) and Sistere (to stand still). Also known as Midsummer’s Day. See Winter Solstice.

SPRING TIDE: The time when the ocean tide differs most between its highest and lowest due to the relationship between Earth, Moon and Sun. The term does not refer to the solar season, but to the tide seeming to “spring out”. 

STEREOCHRONIC (Island dialect): An adjective to describe: multiple and varied states of time; time fully lived; time not defined by the mechanical clock but by local events and processes. See its antonym Monochronic.

SUNRISE: When the Sun rises above the horizon, marking the end of Civil Twilight.

TAX YEAR: In the UK, the financial year that starts on 6 April. This apparently arbitrary administrative date derives from the old New Year, which fell on Spring Equinox. It became detached from the true solar date of Spring Equinox in transition to the Gregorian Calendar.

TEMPONAUT: Time traveller.

TEMPS, LE (French): Time; the weather.

TIDE (archaic): A duration; a season; a repeated action or event; a fitting time; a defined period (eg, eventide or Yuletide).

TIDEFUL (archaic): Opportune, convenient, timely.

TIDY (archaic): In tide; in season; in time; timely.

TIMELY: Happening at the proper time.

TROPICAL YEAR: A solar year. The time it takes for the Sun to return to the same position, as perceived from Earth. For example, from Summer Solstice to Summer Solstice.

TWILIGHT: The interval between Sunset and Nightfall, when the Sun sinks below the horizon but still lights the sky.

TWILIGHT REST (archaic): The period of the Scandanavian day when it is too dark to work but considered too early to light a lamp.

U——

V——

WANING: To describe the Moon when it seems to be growing smaller.

WAXING: To describe the Moon when it seems to be growing bigger.

WIDDERSHINS (Early Modern English): The act of moving anti-clockwise against the apparent course of the Sun; running counter to good sense. (It was once considered bad luck to move widdershins round a church.)

WINTER SOLSTICE: The day of the year when, in Britain and other latitudes, the Sun appears to change direction in the sky and the days start to become longer. See Summer Solstice.

WITCHING HOUR, THE: Midnight, when anciently witches and spirits were thought most likely to appear.

X——

Y——

ZEMAN (Hebrew): Time, as in the abstract standard entity against which we measure events; formerly, appointment, as in time defined by lived events. See Context-Specific Time.

ZEITGEBER (German): An environmental time trigger. For example, the dipping of the Sun below the horizon, which signals time to sleep for the body clock of a diurnal animal. Literally, time-giver. 

ZEITGEIST (German): The spirit of the times.

ZUGENRUHE (German): The restlessness that tugs at birds to migrate back to their nesting grounds for Spring.

 

 

 

A BLACKTHORN WINTER AND OTHER WEATHER-TIME LORE (audio)
The campaign secretary recently made a field trip off the Island to visit her parents. They are farmers in the English East Midlands and she went to collect their weather sayings, listed below. Here they are explaining them:

LISTEN HERE (6 mins)
A circle around the moon means rain before noon
February fill dike, black or white
If wet before seven, fine by eleven
St Swithin’s Day rain, forty days to remain
March Many Weathers
Mist in March, frost in May
If there’s enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trews, it will mean the Sun is coming out fairly soon
The weather won’t alter till the moon changes
When the wind comes out of Kirby Hole it will rain
When the new moon makes a dish in the sky it will catch the rain. When the moon is like an upturned dish it will empty the rain on us
Ash before oak, in for a soak. Oak before ash, in for a splash
If you can sit on the ground in Spring with a bare behind, it’s fit for Spring corn planting
Whether the weather be wet or the weather be fine we’ll weather the weather whatever
Blackthorn Winter
March: in like a lamb, out like a lion; in like a lion, out like a lamb
When you’ve cut your oats and stooked them, wait to hear three church bells


Though delighted by this recording, some committee members politely enquired what this has to do with time. This is the minute of the secretary’s response.

The French word for time, le temps, also means weather, suggesting an ancient and essential connection between the two. For those of us who work indoors, weather and time seem quite separate things. But for farmers, conditions of temperature, air, moisture and light are more important to telling what kind of time it is than the clock.
A wristwatch helps my father keep his firm commitment to his 12.30 dinner. But he doesn’t need an external timekeeper to judge whether it’s time to harvest a field of corn. Instead he uses his knowledge, experience and all his senses: looking carefully, noticing the field’s smell and the dryness of the air, feeling the grain and testing it between his teeth. This is a way of telling time from a complex combination of natural clocks, including meteorological conditions.
The farmer’s ability to predict the weather is vital to preparing for the future. The Met Office forecast helps. But so does knowing intimately the weather patterns specific to a particular valley or hillside. For that reason, there is a rich history of weather lore to help farmers interpret and predict the times. The “Kirby Hole” saying, for example, is useful for a very small geographical area. But “Blackthorn Winter” is more broadly applicable. This miniature season fell when I was visiting in March and the weather turned bitter. My parents explained: an unseasonable icy snap is said to fall often when the blackthorn is in season. That prompted us to make a hedgerow hanami to enjoy its blossom [pictured].
Now back on Stereochron, how can we connect time back up with shifts in light and the seasons? What weather sayings should we take up or invent for the Island to help us tell time without machines? 


The campaign committee intends to table a further investigation of this line of enquiry. Your contributions are encouraged.



 
AUDIO: production and editing by Tickertape

A BLACKTHORN WINTER AND OTHER WEATHER-TIME LORE (audio)

The campaign secretary recently made a field trip off the Island to visit her parents. They are farmers in the English East Midlands and she went to collect their weather sayings, listed below. Here they are explaining them:

LISTEN HERE (6 mins)

A circle around the moon means rain before noon

February fill dike, black or white

If wet before seven, fine by eleven

St Swithin’s Day rain, forty days to remain

March Many Weathers

Mist in March, frost in May

If there’s enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trews, it will mean the Sun is coming out fairly soon

The weather won’t alter till the moon changes

When the wind comes out of Kirby Hole it will rain

When the new moon makes a dish in the sky it will catch the rain. When the moon is like an upturned dish it will empty the rain on us

Ash before oak, in for a soak. Oak before ash, in for a splash

If you can sit on the ground in Spring with a bare behind, it’s fit for Spring corn planting

Whether the weather be wet or the weather be fine we’ll weather the weather whatever

Blackthorn Winter

March: in like a lamb, out like a lion; in like a lion, out like a lamb

When you’ve cut your oats and stooked them, wait to hear three church bells

Though delighted by this recording, some committee members politely enquired what this has to do with time. This is the minute of the secretary’s response.

The French word for time, le temps, also means weather, suggesting an ancient and essential connection between the two. For those of us who work indoors, weather and time seem quite separate things. But for farmers, conditions of temperature, air, moisture and light are more important to telling what kind of time it is than the clock.

A wristwatch helps my father keep his firm commitment to his 12.30 dinner. But he doesn’t need an external timekeeper to judge whether it’s time to harvest a field of corn. Instead he uses his knowledge, experience and all his senses: looking carefully, noticing the field’s smell and the dryness of the air, feeling the grain and testing it between his teeth. This is a way of telling time from a complex combination of natural clocks, including meteorological conditions.

The farmer’s ability to predict the weather is vital to preparing for the future. The Met Office forecast helps. But so does knowing intimately the weather patterns specific to a particular valley or hillside. For that reason, there is a rich history of weather lore to help farmers interpret and predict the times. The “Kirby Hole” saying, for example, is useful for a very small geographical area. But “Blackthorn Winter” is more broadly applicable. This miniature season fell when I was visiting in March and the weather turned bitter. My parents explained: an unseasonable icy snap is said to fall often when the blackthorn is in season. That prompted us to make a hedgerow hanami to enjoy its blossom [pictured].

Now back on Stereochron, how can we connect time back up with shifts in light and the seasons? What weather sayings should we take up or invent for the Island to help us tell time without machines? 

The campaign committee intends to table a further investigation of this line of enquiry. Your contributions are encouraged.

 

AUDIO: production and editing by Tickertape

DUSK CLOCK (video)
The Evening Primrose (Oenothera) is a clock. This video shows in real time how it blooms at the close of day, like a bell intoning dusk as the Sun slides toward the horizon. In fact if you watch carefully, you’ll see how it beats the time twice with a final, perhaps less expected, burst of movement.
WATCH HERE (4 mins)
The bloom will only last a night. Tomorrow it will be burned by the Sun into a deepening orange-pink. Throughout the day its gradual colour shift will display the time. Then the next new flower will trumpet that definite moment once again: the edge of day tipping into night.

The video was made for Stereochron’s field studies into alternatives to the mechanical clock.

DUSK CLOCK (video)

The Evening Primrose (Oenothera) is a clock. This video shows in real time how it blooms at the close of day, like a bell intoning dusk as the Sun slides toward the horizon. In fact if you watch carefully, you’ll see how it beats the time twice with a final, perhaps less expected, burst of movement.

WATCH HERE (4 mins)

The bloom will only last a night. Tomorrow it will be burned by the Sun into a deepening orange-pink. Throughout the day its gradual colour shift will display the time. Then the next new flower will trumpet that definite moment once again: the edge of day tipping into night.

The video was made for Stereochron’s field studies into alternatives to the mechanical clock.

HOW DO YOU MAP INTERNAL TIME?
Next week on Stereochron our investigation continues into the kinds of time that the mechanical clock can’t express or measure. On Wednesday evening we’re conducting a field study of our inner realms, with a public workshop experimenting with mapping internal time. (For details, see Events). In preparation, here the campaign secretary shares her views on the methods we usually use to map our time. 
How do you map a life? How do you account for its achievements?
Social media pages and the classic CV neatly answer that question by ordering the events of our personal history along a timeline. But is that the best tool for the job?
Even though the timeline looks blandly neutral and natural to us, it has a history and a politics of its own. The timeline as we know it now has only been around for about 250 years.* It evolved in part as a tool for measuring the relative progress of nations as ‘backwards’ or ‘advanced’. You could say that the tool we now map our own life with was essentially designed for charting the competitive course of 19th-century empires. And with it, I think, comes a set of assumptions that are equally outdated.
First, the timeline pictures history as a kind of ‘cosmic conveyor belt’ (Sacha Stern) carrying us forward together in time. That gives visual punch to the idea that history is innately progressive, bringing us to better times of its own accord. But by putting too much faith in its picture, are we giving up our own power – our responsibility, even – to help shape history? When we don’t assume it has a set direction and destination, what genuinely better future do we want to help make?
Second, as an ordered, structured container waiting to be filled, the timeline gives us an ideal impression of what life should look like. At least in CV form, it encourages the sense that our own life is lacking if it doesn’t exhibit singular direction, ceaseless productivity, uninterrupted progress. But surely it’s impossible to grow and learn without making diversions and backsteps – kinks, loops and knots in the line of progress. Without risking failure and exploring what may be dead-ends, how can we ever develop?
Third, our lived experience of time is of course constantly in flux: a minute drags and a day goes in a flash, memory fragments can seem more vivid than the present, the perception of events differs between witnesses, and a moment can seem more important than a decade. But the timeline reduces the complexity of lived experience to a line of standard units. So how far does that promote the idea that our experiences don’t count if they’re not mappable onto that line? When assessing the worth of a life, how much does the timeline’s form lead us to value and rate only the measurable, tangible pieces: the status and accolades achieved, the material success, the length in years?
We didn’t always picture life like this. The ancient Stoic philosophers, for example, saw every individual life as a perfect circle, whether that life lasts 30 or 80 years. The notion that a life’s worth should be assessed as full or lacking by its abstract quantities would have seemed faulty to them.
And it surely is faulty. A measurement is only a shadow of the thing. If we mistake the map for the land, the score for the performance, the timeline for the life, then we reduce existence to its shadows. As the philosopher Henri Bergson warned, lived time in all its fullness can’t be measured. Doing so risks reducing a life to a machine or commodity.
So what if we tried an experiment and mapped our life as we really experience it to be: a map without measurements? One that gives space to events according to their significance rather than their length in clock-time?
What if we made that map just for our self and included what we would leave out of a job application – a map that includes the mazes and trapdoors along with the parades of glory and the leaps of progress? Might we value the failures and the ‘time wasted’ more then? And when we accept and value our past experience in all its fullness, how does that change our view of the future? 



 
 
IMAGE: Life Map (Tristram Shandy), Cathy Haynes, 2014. The image amplifies the most significant visual element of the novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-67): the marbled page included in every copy of the first edition which Shandy describes as his ‘motley emblem’. Life Map (Tristram Shandy) interprets that page as a form of immeasurable, tangled life map that contradicts the new form of the timeline which was just then coming into popularity. In this Shandy picture of time, it seems, memories don’t make a neat queue from past to future, but rise and sink in a sea that connects without order the old and new, the half-forgotten and the ever-present. Life Map (Tristram Shandy) is part of a series being exhibited at South Kiosk as part of Chronovisor: Archive till 20 June 2014.
* See Grafton & Rosenberg, Cartographies of Time.

HOW DO YOU MAP INTERNAL TIME?

Next week on Stereochron our investigation continues into the kinds of time that the mechanical clock can’t express or measure. On Wednesday evening we’re conducting a field study of our inner realms, with a public workshop experimenting with mapping internal time. (For details, see Events). In preparation, here the campaign secretary shares her views on the methods we usually use to map our time.

How do you map a life? How do you account for its achievements?

Social media pages and the classic CV neatly answer that question by ordering the events of our personal history along a timeline. But is that the best tool for the job?

Even though the timeline looks blandly neutral and natural to us, it has a history and a politics of its own. The timeline as we know it now has only been around for about 250 years.* It evolved in part as a tool for measuring the relative progress of nations as ‘backwards’ or ‘advanced’. You could say that the tool we now map our own life with was essentially designed for charting the competitive course of 19th-century empires. And with it, I think, comes a set of assumptions that are equally outdated.

First, the timeline pictures history as a kind of ‘cosmic conveyor belt’ (Sacha Stern) carrying us forward together in time. That gives visual punch to the idea that history is innately progressive, bringing us to better times of its own accord. But by putting too much faith in its picture, are we giving up our own power – our responsibility, even – to help shape history? When we don’t assume it has a set direction and destination, what genuinely better future do we want to help make?

Second, as an ordered, structured container waiting to be filled, the timeline gives us an ideal impression of what life should look like. At least in CV form, it encourages the sense that our own life is lacking if it doesn’t exhibit singular direction, ceaseless productivity, uninterrupted progress. But surely it’s impossible to grow and learn without making diversions and backsteps – kinks, loops and knots in the line of progress. Without risking failure and exploring what may be dead-ends, how can we ever develop?

Third, our lived experience of time is of course constantly in flux: a minute drags and a day goes in a flash, memory fragments can seem more vivid than the present, the perception of events differs between witnesses, and a moment can seem more important than a decade. But the timeline reduces the complexity of lived experience to a line of standard units. So how far does that promote the idea that our experiences don’t count if they’re not mappable onto that line? When assessing the worth of a life, how much does the timeline’s form lead us to value and rate only the measurable, tangible pieces: the status and accolades achieved, the material success, the length in years?

We didn’t always picture life like this. The ancient Stoic philosophers, for example, saw every individual life as a perfect circle, whether that life lasts 30 or 80 years. The notion that a life’s worth should be assessed as full or lacking by its abstract quantities would have seemed faulty to them.

And it surely is faulty. A measurement is only a shadow of the thing. If we mistake the map for the land, the score for the performance, the timeline for the life, then we reduce existence to its shadows. As the philosopher Henri Bergson warned, lived time in all its fullness can’t be measured. Doing so risks reducing a life to a machine or commodity.

So what if we tried an experiment and mapped our life as we really experience it to be: a map without measurements? One that gives space to events according to their significance rather than their length in clock-time?

What if we made that map just for our self and included what we would leave out of a job application – a map that includes the mazes and trapdoors along with the parades of glory and the leaps of progress? Might we value the failures and the ‘time wasted’ more then? And when we accept and value our past experience in all its fullness, how does that change our view of the future? 

 

 

IMAGE: Life Map (Tristram Shandy), Cathy Haynes, 2014. The image amplifies the most significant visual element of the novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-67): the marbled page included in every copy of the first edition which Shandy describes as his ‘motley emblem’. Life Map (Tristram Shandy) interprets that page as a form of immeasurable, tangled life map that contradicts the new form of the timeline which was just then coming into popularity. In this Shandy picture of time, it seems, memories don’t make a neat queue from past to future, but rise and sink in a sea that connects without order the old and new, the half-forgotten and the ever-present. Life Map (Tristram Shandy) is part of a series being exhibited at South Kiosk as part of Chronovisor: Archive till 20 June 2014.

* See Grafton & Rosenberg, Cartographies of Time.

TELLING TIME BY THE BIRDS

Starlings flock together towards duskfall. In the city you might see a handful of the birds wheeling around together to find a roost, like this group on the Thames shore.

In remote places cold weather and low light brings tens of thousands of starlings together, rising and falling in liquid shapes as one vast body. This mass dance is called a murmuration after the soft whirr of the million wingbeats as they pass overhead. Witnessing it feels hallucinatory to a human. How much more startling the starlings must seem to other species whose eyes are equipped to see the UV light reflected by their plumage.* This sky-disco in the fading rays of the Sun announces the coming night. It’s part of our natural clock.

Are there murmurations on Stereochron? There may have been once. Now it seems that for decades no mass groups of starlings have been recorded circling over central London’s ocean of bricks and glass. But there was a time when once a large flock settled on the hands of Big Ben and stopped its mechanism.** It is tempting to imagine their sit-in as a protest against the monotonous beat of the mechanical city. 

While there may be no murmurations now, there is an exuberance of bird activity on Stereochron forming an alternative clock from dawn to dusk. But how do we learn to read bird-time? To find out, in April Stereochron commissioned ecologist Peter Beckenham to show us by leading a walk through the Island during the most intense dawn chorus of the year. 

Our adventure prompted a new entry in Stereochron’s vocabulary: gökotta (pronounced yo’-kOt-tah), the Swedish word for rising to hear the first birdsong. 

What we discovered on that trip through Stereochron’s splendid dawn is documented in here

 

Images: Starlings gathering and roosting at Enderby Wharf on the Thames shore at East Greenwich, London, Summer 2014.

* Stereochron’s campaign secretary hopes to simulate this phenomenon on video, since UV is invisible to the naked human eye. 

** According to this RSPB blog.

TELLING TIME BY THE BLOOMS
Like flowers, humans are solar creatures. Our chronobiology, or internal rhythms, are regulated by daylight. We know this well on Stereochron. Yet mechanical clocks pretend that each unit of time is identical. So when we leave the Island we try to live by the customs of the surrounding Monochronic states, detached from the solar cycle, with troubling consequences for our mind and body.*
The campaign secretary therefore recently proposed a new clock for Stereochron whose hour-length fluctuates with the length of the day. In response some members of the community raised the difficulty of negotiating the time difference between the Island and surrounding territories, noting that it may even cause tension between Stereochonites and local traders. (Through a series of detailed role-plays we established that a builder may object to their hourly rate stretching to an extra 20 minutes of standard time for every Stereochron hour around midsummer). Until we develop an easy reckoner to convert time between the two systems, we need a clock that keeps standard time. 
Our challenge is to make a clock that displays hours of equal quantity but changing quality; one that shows both what unit of time it is and what kind of time it is. For that reason we have been debating whether it would be possible to create a garden following the plan that the 18th-century taxonomist Linnaeus made for a flower clock, or Horologium florae.
The picture above shows the campaign secretary’s proposal for a 24-hour clock based on Linnaeus’s ideas. The < symbol denotes that the flower opens at this hour, and > closes. The Spotted Catsear opens at 9am, for example, and the Sowthistle closes at noon. 
However our feasibility research confirms that building a flower clock is currently beyond the Island’s resources. The campaign secretary borrowed from Linnaeus’s scheme, which he created for the more northerly latitude and specific growing conditions of his part of Sweden. We do not know of other schemes that would work on our tiny boot-shaped spot on the globe. What’s more a flower clock would also of course only let us read the hours for part of the year.
We may not yet have the answer to the Stereochron clock. But this research has begun to open our minds and senses to the shifting patterns of the blooms on Stereochron. Even if we learn only to notice the Evening Primrose unfurling at a predictable point before dusk, it gives us a collective time-marker like the Muezzin’s call, the church peal and the dawn chorus. The bloom-clock not only tells us what kind of time it is. It also helps create the kind of time it marks and immerse us in it too. Contrast that with the abstract blankness of a digit on a screen that records time like a cash till registers pennies. 
Anciently we would have told time by the patterns of other species, and synchronised our activities to them. Our deadlines would have been defined by incoming storms and the ripeness of fruit, not sales targets and tax years.** 
Today the battle to force our rhythms to abstract time-markers means many of those living in Stereochron’s neighbouring states no longer take a lunch-hour. To disrupt that, we held a lunchtime field study on Wednesday 8 May 2014. The ecologist Tony Wileman led us on a foray to find out about the plant- and animal-clocks on the Island. Our rich findings are documented in a separate post.





 
 
* See Till Roenneberg, Internal Time (Harvard University Press, 2012).
** Incidentally the apparently arbitrary date of the UK tax year is the result of it getting unmoored from the old New Year and the start of Spring.

TELLING TIME BY THE BLOOMS

Like flowers, humans are solar creatures. Our chronobiology, or internal rhythms, are regulated by daylight. We know this well on Stereochron. Yet mechanical clocks pretend that each unit of time is identical. So when we leave the Island we try to live by the customs of the surrounding Monochronic states, detached from the solar cycle, with troubling consequences for our mind and body.*

The campaign secretary therefore recently proposed a new clock for Stereochron whose hour-length fluctuates with the length of the day. In response some members of the community raised the difficulty of negotiating the time difference between the Island and surrounding territories, noting that it may even cause tension between Stereochonites and local traders. (Through a series of detailed role-plays we established that a builder may object to their hourly rate stretching to an extra 20 minutes of standard time for every Stereochron hour around midsummer). Until we develop an easy reckoner to convert time between the two systems, we need a clock that keeps standard time. 

Our challenge is to make a clock that displays hours of equal quantity but changing quality; one that shows both what unit of time it is and what kind of time it is. For that reason we have been debating whether it would be possible to create a garden following the plan that the 18th-century taxonomist Linnaeus made for a flower clock, or Horologium florae.

The picture above shows the campaign secretary’s proposal for a 24-hour clock based on Linnaeus’s ideas. The < symbol denotes that the flower opens at this hour, and > closes. The Spotted Catsear opens at 9am, for example, and the Sowthistle closes at noon. 

However our feasibility research confirms that building a flower clock is currently beyond the Island’s resources. The campaign secretary borrowed from Linnaeus’s scheme, which he created for the more northerly latitude and specific growing conditions of his part of Sweden. We do not know of other schemes that would work on our tiny boot-shaped spot on the globe. What’s more a flower clock would also of course only let us read the hours for part of the year.

We may not yet have the answer to the Stereochron clock. But this research has begun to open our minds and senses to the shifting patterns of the blooms on Stereochron. Even if we learn only to notice the Evening Primrose unfurling at a predictable point before dusk, it gives us a collective time-marker like the Muezzin’s call, the church peal and the dawn chorus. The bloom-clock not only tells us what kind of time it is. It also helps create the kind of time it marks and immerse us in it too. Contrast that with the abstract blankness of a digit on a screen that records time like a cash till registers pennies. 

Anciently we would have told time by the patterns of other species, and synchronised our activities to them. Our deadlines would have been defined by incoming storms and the ripeness of fruit, not sales targets and tax years.** 

Today the battle to force our rhythms to abstract time-markers means many of those living in Stereochron’s neighbouring states no longer take a lunch-hour. To disrupt that, we held a lunchtime field study on Wednesday 8 May 2014. The ecologist Tony Wileman led us on a foray to find out about the plant- and animal-clocks on the Island. Our rich findings are documented in a separate post.

 

 

* See Till Roenneberg, Internal Time (Harvard University Press, 2012).

** Incidentally the apparently arbitrary date of the UK tax year is the result of it getting unmoored from the old New Year and the start of Spring.

HOW SHOULD WE PICTURE TIME?

In her previous position as Timekeeper in residence at UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Stereochron’s campaign secretary made a 3-D diagram of 35 historical pictures and models of time, from a many-horned goat to an astronomical wormhole. To help Stereochron think about how it should model time, she has distilled them into the four basic forms above, although there may be many more. 

It may seem strange that over history people have pictured time as an animal or as solid matter. In the secular West today we imagine time moving uniformly against an abstract scientific measure of nanoseconds and millennia. This is an objective model, or so it seems. But even that picture of time flowing makes time into a thing, fixing it in space. It takes the time out of time, and replaces it with an ideal form. Like other models of time, our picture of a chain of events progressing along a line has a history and a politics too. 

How we imagine time influences how we understand the past, how we give attention to the present and how we judge our power to create the future. So what would be the best model for Stereochron? 

THE SNAKE EATING ITS TAIL

This is the ancient Egyptian symbol Ouroboros. It’s thought to be among the many cyclical models of time held by different traditions across the Globe, from Mayan to Pagan cultures.

In Bali, for example, the idea of time as a circle has a deep influence on the structure of life, at least traditionally. There the term kumpi means both great-grandparent and great-grandchild, helping shape the perception that life is an unchanging present: the one becomes the other in an eternal return. The linear sense of time – which we may gain as we age, for example – is repressed by that powerful cyclical model.

In contrast, for us in the West today, the linear model seems to eclipse the cyclical. But the Ouroboros remains with us in the form of the infinity symbol ∞. And we can still see a vestige of the Pagan circle of time in the shape of a traditional clock face.

Outside of Stereochron we may live increasingly in the unbroken daylight of the Internet. But on the Island, where we’re immersed in the natural rhythms of daylight and darkness over the seasons, it isn’t hard to imagine time as a circle. To anchor us to those changes, and to the different qualities of time they bring, should Stereochron emphasise the cyclical patterns of light and dark in its clock? (To see a proposal for the Stereochron clock, click here).

DIVINE RAYS

After the 1986 FIFA world cup, the Argentianian player Maradona described his process of scoring a goal against the English from an unpenalised handball as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. What’s the Hand of God? In his teasing way, Maradona was calling on an ancient geometry of time.

People still gesture upwards to speak of the Divine. Old paintings show Christ ascending to the Heavens. And Maradona’s God seems to have leant down to flick the ball. History in this model is not triggered intrinsically by natural or human forces in a chain running along a horizontal Earthly axis. Rather history is driven from above: Earthly events have a vertical connection to Divine Providence, unfolding to His plan. Given that, the second model here interprets the rays of illumination in a church frieze as divine cords descending to the Earth, binding time into a sacred constellation. 

Should Stereochron take this model on? A number of points have been raised in our campaign group discussions. On the one hand it protects time as a sacred thing which no human can own, meaning that our time can’t be reduced to a commodity or the functions of a machine. This has the potential to liberate human worth from a measure of time-efficiency. On the other it may lead to letting go of human responsibility for the change we make. Whether we follow this model, and how we interpret it, is for us each to decide.

THE ARROW OF PROGRESS

The timeline fills our world. It appears in the form of financial forecasts, digital clockfaces, social media templates and the progress bar on your screen. Each presents time as a line of standard units. Each more or less fosters the relatively new idea of history as progress, like an arrow carrying us to a better future of its own accord. 

It’s said that the Renaissance thinker Francis Bacon first gave us the idea of progress, arguing in the 1620s that (what we would call) the techno-scientific revolution had limitless power to perfect nature. This radical idea shifts the motor of history from the Heavens to the horizontal Earthly dimension. Over the next century and beyond it gained traction with the combined influence of the new model of history as a chain of cause and effect, and the graphic invention of the timeline as we know it now.

On Stereochron perhaps we should be wary of the current variant of the timeline of progress which bears the promise that the future will get better as long as we out-run the rest. When do we have time live fully if we’re always sacrificing the present to speed ahead to the future? (For more detailed thoughts on the inadequacy of the timeline, see How Do You Map Internal Time?)

THE KNOT

What does your internal landscape of time look like? Is it a straight train-ride across a flat landscape? Or is it tangled, knotty and looping, folded back and welded to your past self at points, detached or branching in others? 

The mid-18th-Century novel Tristram Shandy spoofs the timeline of progress, just as it was becoming part of everyday life, with a map of its own backward-spiking and downward-spiralling chapter plotlines. But the story itself is even more unmappable than those plotlines suggest. Although its promised chapter on knots never comes, you could say the whole book is a gargantuan tangle of time. 

Shandy’s knot seems a fitting symbol to stand for the unique and stretchy sense of time we all carry within. It shares affinities with the electric circuit, one of philosopher Henri Bergson’s metaphors for what he saw as the complex, fluid and immeasurable experience of lived time. Compared with the simple chain of cause and effect, it also seems better at representing on the grand scale how events spiral into a complex of feedback loops, especially in our era of ‘connectivity’

Is the knot the model Stereochron should adopt? We’ll be experimenting to find out in our workshop on Mapping Internal Time on the Island on 21 May 2014. For details, click here.

THE BACKGROUND SHAPES

Why does each object sit inside an abstract version of itself? 

Each model has been doubled like this because over history our metaphors of time seem to vacillate between abstract forms and concrete objects, depending on what appears most legitimate. It may be, for example, that at one historical moment the timeline is transformed into rivers and arrows to give it the semblance of a natural truth. At another it’s returned to apparently timeless abstract forms perhaps to give it the air of scientific veracity. 

All the geometric forms here are self-explanatory, except the last. How do you abstract a knot? Perhaps the point of it as a metaphor is that it can’t be tugged into a simpler shape. So here it sits mounted inside a tridecagon, a contrary shape with as many sides as there are lunar months in a year. It’s fleshy pink suggests a kind of time that is part of the matter of life.

The fifth and final picture in the sequence of images gives what is arguably a chronological timeline of the four models. 

Finally a note on how the pictures were made. The figurative sketches were drawn from a combination of imagined and found objects, in an attempt to make each an example of a cultural archetype. While pencil is a “time-heavy” medium, the coloured grounds are made from a “time-efficient” assemblage of ready-made presentation graphics.

 In place of their coloured grounds, the original drawings are framed inside mounts cut to the same abstract shapes. They sit beside the campaign’s Ganntt chart as a reminder — mementi tempi — of alternative ways of thinking about time.*

* They are currently on loan to Tenderpixel, where they are part of the group exhibition ‘before breakfast we talked about the furthest visible point before it al disappeared’ (27 June-26 July 2014).

IMAGES from top: Geometries of Time: I (cyclical/Ouroboros); II (vertical/divine rays); III (horizontal/arrow); IV (immeasurable/knot) © Cathy Haynes 2014.

STEREOCHRON ON THE RADIO
Earlier this week Stereochron&#8217;s campaign secretary appeared on Aleks Krotoski&#8217;s BBC Radio 4 Digital Human episode on Time, musing on the limits of the clock. Other contributors included the neuroscientist David Eagleman and BASE jumper Karina Hollekim with fascinating insights on time perception. 
If you missed it, you can listen again here.
 

 

STEREOCHRON ON THE RADIO

Earlier this week Stereochron’s campaign secretary appeared on Aleks Krotoski’s BBC Radio 4 Digital Human episode on Time, musing on the limits of the clock. Other contributors included the neuroscientist David Eagleman and BASE jumper Karina Hollekim with fascinating insights on time perception. 

If you missed it, you can listen again here.

 

 

A PROPOSAL FOR THE STEREOCHRON CLOCK
Stereochron is campaigning to become a “State Without Clocks”. But by that we don’t necessarily mean to banish all clocks. Instead we intend to establish the Island as an official sanctuary from the standard mechanical clock, which we believe may be diminishing the variety and richness of the kinds of time we experience. On Stereochron we add Mechanical Time (Mech) after times and dates to show that there are other ways of measuring time. However we have yet to fathom what form of official timekeeping we should have in its place. This post is therefore a proposal for an alternative form of Stereochron clock.

Perhaps most important question when devising a clock is how we should mark the hours. Not all cultures divide the cycle of day and night by 24, and we aren’t bound to our history. Maybe we should revive the French Revolution&#8217;s attempt to liberate itself from the irrational past by decimalising timepieces, dividing the day into tens, and minutes into 100. But is that ambition to scrape Time clean of History and refine its measures right for Stereochron? It would still seem to follow the old Newtonian idea that Time is a separate thing from life: a pure, absolute entity against which everything can be measured; an unchanging ground; a pristine backdrop to a messy clay Earth. 

On Stereochron it seems palpably untrue that Time is separate from the living tissue of life. Here we wish to live even more deeply in the bloom of time, fully sensing the shifts produced by the Sun and the Moon. The mechanical clock is no aid to that: unlike changing light, it has no impact on living matter, only on the conscious mind. So what alternatives are there? This proposal draws on an ancient form of clock that is intimately connected to the relationship of the Earth and the Sun. 

Until about eight centuries ago in the British Isles the length of the hour was irregular. It changed every day because day and night were each divided into 12. At Midsummer the daylight hour would have been at its longest and the nocturnal hour at its shortest; the reverse on Winter Solstice. There seems more truth to a clock whose rhythm fluctuates with the seasons than one that simply displays the unceasing, unchanging beat of its own mechanism. 
To understand how the fluctuating clock works, the campaign secretary (CS) has made some rough calculations to see how it would tell time on the shortest day of the year at our latitude: each nocturnal hour would last about 81 minutes and each daylight hour about 39 minutes (Mech). During our field study of shadows at Summer Solstice, we’ll be asking the Royal Observatory’s Public Astronomer Marek Kukula for help in better understanding its principles. 
Meanwhile the CS has mocked up an impression of what this kind of clock might look like for Stereochron on a Summer’s day, above. You’ll see that the nocturnal hours are shorter than the daylight hours, and the shape of the daylight hours decreases with the Sun’s shadows. The design has flaws, but it’s a start.

Intriguingly we have heard that Japan managed to keep its flexible hour until the late 19th-Century when universal standard time was agreed across the Globe. Before that shift, even more interestingly, it seems the Japanese had mechanical timepieces that kept the irregular hour. If any readers know more about this, and where we might study such a clock, please let us know. It sounds like just the thing for Stereochron.

At our first public gathering on 2 April 2014 at Chisenhale Gallery, the Campaign Secretary will be explaining Why Clocks Are To Time What Laminate Flooring Is To Trees. For details, click here.

A PROPOSAL FOR THE STEREOCHRON CLOCK

Stereochron is campaigning to become a “State Without Clocks”. But by that we don’t necessarily mean to banish all clocks. Instead we intend to establish the Island as an official sanctuary from the standard mechanical clock, which we believe may be diminishing the variety and richness of the kinds of time we experience. On Stereochron we add Mechanical Time (Mech) after times and dates to show that there are other ways of measuring time. However we have yet to fathom what form of official timekeeping we should have in its place. This post is therefore a proposal for an alternative form of Stereochron clock.

Perhaps most important question when devising a clock is how we should mark the hours. Not all cultures divide the cycle of day and night by 24, and we aren’t bound to our history. Maybe we should revive the French Revolution’s attempt to liberate itself from the irrational past by decimalising timepieces, dividing the day into tens, and minutes into 100. But is that ambition to scrape Time clean of History and refine its measures right for Stereochron? It would still seem to follow the old Newtonian idea that Time is a separate thing from life: a pure, absolute entity against which everything can be measured; an unchanging ground; a pristine backdrop to a messy clay Earth. 

On Stereochron it seems palpably untrue that Time is separate from the living tissue of life. Here we wish to live even more deeply in the bloom of time, fully sensing the shifts produced by the Sun and the Moon. The mechanical clock is no aid to that: unlike changing light, it has no impact on living matter, only on the conscious mind. So what alternatives are there? This proposal draws on an ancient form of clock that is intimately connected to the relationship of the Earth and the Sun. 

Until about eight centuries ago in the British Isles the length of the hour was irregular. It changed every day because day and night were each divided into 12. At Midsummer the daylight hour would have been at its longest and the nocturnal hour at its shortest; the reverse on Winter Solstice. There seems more truth to a clock whose rhythm fluctuates with the seasons than one that simply displays the unceasing, unchanging beat of its own mechanism. 

To understand how the fluctuating clock works, the campaign secretary (CS) has made some rough calculations to see how it would tell time on the shortest day of the year at our latitude: each nocturnal hour would last about 81 minutes and each daylight hour about 39 minutes (Mech). During our field study of shadows at Summer Solstice, we’ll be asking the Royal Observatory’s Public Astronomer Marek Kukula for help in better understanding its principles. 

Meanwhile the CS has mocked up an impression of what this kind of clock might look like for Stereochron on a Summer’s day, above. You’ll see that the nocturnal hours are shorter than the daylight hours, and the shape of the daylight hours decreases with the Sun’s shadows. The design has flaws, but it’s a start.

Intriguingly we have heard that Japan managed to keep its flexible hour until the late 19th-Century when universal standard time was agreed across the Globe. Before that shift, even more interestingly, it seems the Japanese had mechanical timepieces that kept the irregular hour. If any readers know more about this, and where we might study such a clock, please let us know. It sounds like just the thing for Stereochron.

At our first public gathering on 2 April 2014 at Chisenhale Gallery, the Campaign Secretary will be explaining Why Clocks Are To Time What Laminate Flooring Is To Trees. For details, click here.

IS STEREOCHRON A “TIME COMMONS”?


[Victoria Park] is surrounded by an industrial population with but little leisure time for pleasure, and living for the most part in crowded workrooms and ill-ventilated dwellings. Such people know best how to appreciate the contrast between their usual surroundings and the beauties of Nature when a little leisure gives them an opportunity. (Nathan Cole, The Royal Parks and Gardens of London: Their History and Mode of Embellishment, 1887)


Victoria Park is a special case among London’s “Green Islands … amid the sea of bricks”. This is the People’s Park, the first purpose-built park in London. It was created in the 1840s and is rightly celebrated for giving space and air to the people living in the desperate conditions of the industrial slums of the East End. What&#8217;s more, controversially it gave them back their own time, a detail too easily forgotten now. The Park is a green island, true. But it’s also Stereochron Island &#8212; a place of time in stereo &#8212; where people are free to forget about the narrow strictures of clock-time and luxuriate in birdsong and sunshadows. 

The historian Nathan Cole gives some evidence for this, above, in his remark about how workers spent their leisure here. In what he says next, Cole makes clear that leisure was political. His words address the establishment fear that if the lower classes were given too much leisure time they would devote it to vice or protest. With a metaphorical kerchief to his nose, he reassures his readers:


It is gratifying to observe that the people [of Victoria Park] show by their demeanour that they know how to respect these benefits and protect a privilege conceded to them.  


For Cole and his audience, it seems that the space to do as one wished &#8212; and it&#8217;s extension, time of one&#8217;s own &#8212; was to be doled out to the worker reluctantly by their social and economic masters. Those were the people who held a monopoly on time, on the conditions and structure of the working day; but also those who more broadly upheld a culture in which doing nothing of useful purpose was considered a sinful waste, particularly for the poor, and leisure was only for those who could afford it.
In contrast, by its design and permanence, the Park seems to crystallise the right of everyone to their own time, to do as they please within its bounds, regardless of the credo of unrelenting usefulness beyond. The Park&#8217;s design is an invitation to get immersed in the useless splendour of flowers, to play, to dream, to meander in arcadia, even to get lost &#8212; rather than to reduce time to a measure of productivity and waste. In other words, it seems the Park&#8217;s makers created a space of democratic ownership of time in all its varieties: a time commons.
Can the Park still be a time commons for us? What kinds of time exist here that aren&#8217;t defined by the standard clock? What does it mean in the 21st century to experience a variety of time states? These are the questions behind our Stereochron field studies.
  

 

IS STEREOCHRON A “TIME COMMONS”?

[Victoria Park] is surrounded by an industrial population with but little leisure time for pleasure, and living for the most part in crowded workrooms and ill-ventilated dwellings. Such people know best how to appreciate the contrast between their usual surroundings and the beauties of Nature when a little leisure gives them an opportunity. (Nathan Cole, The Royal Parks and Gardens of London: Their History and Mode of Embellishment, 1887)

Victoria Park is a special case among London’s “Green Islands … amid the sea of bricks”. This is the People’s Park, the first purpose-built park in London. It was created in the 1840s and is rightly celebrated for giving space and air to the people living in the desperate conditions of the industrial slums of the East End. What’s more, controversially it gave them back their own time, a detail too easily forgotten now. The Park is a green island, true. But it’s also Stereochron Island — a place of time in stereo — where people are free to forget about the narrow strictures of clock-time and luxuriate in birdsong and sunshadows. 

The historian Nathan Cole gives some evidence for this, above, in his remark about how workers spent their leisure here. In what he says next, Cole makes clear that leisure was political. His words address the establishment fear that if the lower classes were given too much leisure time they would devote it to vice or protest. With a metaphorical kerchief to his nose, he reassures his readers:

It is gratifying to observe that the people [of Victoria Park] show by their demeanour that they know how to respect these benefits and protect a privilege conceded to them.  

For Cole and his audience, it seems that the space to do as one wished — and it’s extension, time of one’s own — was to be doled out to the worker reluctantly by their social and economic masters. Those were the people who held a monopoly on time, on the conditions and structure of the working day; but also those who more broadly upheld a culture in which doing nothing of useful purpose was considered a sinful waste, particularly for the poor, and leisure was only for those who could afford it.

In contrast, by its design and permanence, the Park seems to crystallise the right of everyone to their own time, to do as they please within its bounds, regardless of the credo of unrelenting usefulness beyond. The Park’s design is an invitation to get immersed in the useless splendour of flowers, to play, to dream, to meander in arcadia, even to get lost — rather than to reduce time to a measure of productivity and waste. In other words, it seems the Park’s makers created a space of democratic ownership of time in all its varieties: a time commons.

Can the Park still be a time commons for us? What kinds of time exist here that aren’t defined by the standard clock? What does it mean in the 21st century to experience a variety of time states? These are the questions behind our Stereochron field studies.