Robert Levine explains the geography of time based on his experiences through this book. Having worked and travelled extensively outside the USA, he was initially surprised when people turned up late for their appointments. At the same time, these incidents helped him uncover a lot of interesting facts about time.
Levine explains Social Time at the beginning of the book. In order to explain the concept of Social Time, he borrows the word “tempo” from the music theory and applies it to human time. Levine examines the various elements of tempo like economic well-being, the degree of industrialization, population size, climate and cultural values. He then explains the concept of duration which mostly depends on our psychological clock and the psychological clock is also responsible for making our time fly or drag. The psychological clock is influenced by 5 factors – Pleasantness, Degree of Urgency, the Amount of Activity, Variety and Time-Free Tasks.
Levine proceeds to tell the brief history of clock time. Surprisingly, there was a resistance in converging to a standardization of clock time as we know it in the present day and finally, industrialization fastened the world to converge. After explaining the history of clock time, Levine introduces the concept of event time. He also describes the characteristics of cultures living in clock time and social time. Finally, he touches upon the 10 rules to the waiting game.
Once the concept of Social Time is established, Levine explains the research done by his team around the globe in 31 nations and also 36 cities in United States. His research was focused on finding where the life was fastest. In order to identify the pace of life, 3 standards were used. They were walking speed, work speed and accuracy of public clocks. In this comparison of the nations, Japan and Western Europe ranked the highest. The non-industrialized countries from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America came at the bottom. Levine also examined the the physical well being, psychological well being and social well being of the people living in 36 cities of USA. Levine also shares some of the contradictory data about Japan based on his research and explains the reasons behind it.
In the concluding part of the book, Levine quotes a friend who talks about the people living in the border of Mexico and USA. His friend explains how they switches from event time to clock time as soon as they cross the border. Citing this example, Levine confirms that it is possible to switch between these two paradigms and the change your pace. In order to switch effectively, he lists down 8 lessons that will help people to accomplish this task.
Levine narrates anecdotes from his experiences and also borrows them from the experiences of his colleagues. The anecdotes make this book an interesting read. The book is written in a simple style. The research findings do not end up as boring numbers in a tabular format as Levine walks us through these in his characteristic casual and humorous style.
There is so many things about time we do not know. If you want to find it out, pick up this book.
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