Wednesday, December 13, 2006

 

Timelines

This assignment was interesting in several ways. Looking over the progress of concepts, interpretations, and representations of time, I was struck anew at how tied to religion early ideas were. Other interpretations related time of music. Both religious and scientific models denoting time as trees, chains, and ladders, all inherently insinuate upward progress. This idea still exists today, I think. Because something is newer, it is often assumed to be better, hence consumerism. This applies to technology too. Think of the lineups, people camped out for days, and violence that accompanied the release of the new Playstation 3. Most of these people already had the previous edition, it wasn;t that they couldn't play video games without the new model, but they wanted the new model and games. Even more, they wanted to be one of the first to have the new system.

The timeline also showed how thinkers became more occupied with precise time. As the world modernized time and puctuality became more important. But is this cultural? Many lifestyles don't approach time the same. Even just on farms, time is treated differently. Exact timing is not always as important or measured by the hands of a clock.

Reading through the development of different timelines and ideas, I noticed how closed my definition of time was. To me time is minutes, hours, months...But before these were all as established and unquestioned as they are today, so many more things related to time. Many thinkers investigated planetary rotation or the speed of objects as a function of time.

Looking over the many attempts to illustrate or quantify time made me feel better. During practicum last year I found one of the challenges was to give students an idea of what was happening simultaneously throughout the world. Students, and all of us I think, have a tendency to relate like events or civilizations rather than relate chronologies. Just because the West was modern, other parts of the world were at very different levels. Similarly, just because Europe was not very developed in the Middle Ages, and even before, doesn;t mean that other cultures were similarly stagnating.

My Canadian pride was hurt that Sandford Fleming did not merit a mention, if you remember your 'Heritage Minutes', Fleming was the inventor of Standard Time. Considering some of those mentioned in the timeline of timelines were even less directly linked to creating our modern system, I think he deserved mention.

I find timelines very helpful in general, they can focus and summarize a great deal of information. Also, many of us, including me, appreciate the visual format. The main flaw however, I believe, is that by laying out events in line, we denote simplicity; a certain cause and effect. Especially when teaching youth I think it nmust be made clear that events were not inevitable, other outcomes were possible.

Also timelines can be problamatic because to do justice to events and complexity, simple linear timelines are sometimes not possible. However, creating non-linear timelines can be difficult, and with the internet age, the technological knowledge needed to create a non-linear timeline by computer may inhibit some from trying, or their result could lack the polish which seems intrinsically tied to being seen as valid.

When looking at several options from the list of timelines I was surprised by how the quality of the site or even just the symbols, length of entries...affected my opinion of its validity. The ability, through money or skill, to put together a professional-looking site seems to be critical to having users believe the accuracy of the information itself.

Lastly, for those with a moment, I recommnend looking at the entry from 1760 on the timeline of timelines. It gives visual diagrams of well-told stories. It is really quite interesting a worth a look.

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