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Pressed for Time

The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism

The technologically tethered, iPhone-addicted figure is an image we can easily conjure. Most of us complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day and too many e-mails in our thumb-accessible inboxes. This widespread perception that life is faster than it used to be is now ingrained in our culture, and smartphones and the Internet are continually being blamed. But isn’t the sole purpose of the smartphone to give us such quick access to people and information that we’ll be free to do other things? Isn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier?
In Pressed for Time, Judy Wajcman explains why we immediately interpret our experiences with digital technology as inexorably accelerating everyday life. She argues that we are not mere hostages to communication devices, and the sense of always being rushed is the result of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set rather than the machines that help us set them. Indeed, being busy and having action-packed lives has become valorized by our productivity driven culture. Wajcman offers a bracing historical perspective, exploring the commodification of clock time, and how the speed of the industrial age became identified with progress. She also delves into the ways time-use differs for diverse groups in modern societies, showing how changes in work patterns, family arrangements, and parenting all affect time stress. Bringing together empirical research on time use and theoretical debates about dramatic digital developments, this accessible and engaging book will leave readers better versed in how to use technology to navigate life’s fast lane.

227 pages | 8 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015

History: History of Technology

Sociology: General Sociology, Occupations, Professions, Work, Social Institutions


“More, better, faster. So many of us take these as unproblematic goods. Judith Wajcman’s Pressed for Time—written in elegant, clear, accessible language—will make you take a new look at this kind of thinking. Armed with her analysis of the co-construction of technology, social practice, and our sense of what matters, ‘more, better, faster,’ and our modern culture of time is made problematic, insecure, and interesting. A must-read not only for a range of social scientists and humanists, but for everyone who wants to understand how we have remade time and remade ourselves in digital culture.”

Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

"A splendid new book. . . . Takes on--and mostly demolishes--the conventional narrative about the acceleration of life in a digital world."


“Occasionally a book comes around that you feel certain will make a difference to how social scientists think about the age we live in and its impact on our daily lives. Not necessarily because of its theoretical depth, or the solidity of its evidence base, or even its originality, but because of the way its author so ably pulls together a set of focused questions in need of better researched answers if we are to advance our understanding of contemporary life. Pressed for Time--Judy Wajcman’s clearly, interestingly and highly accessibly written investigation into the many facets of the acceleration of time in our increasingly digital society--is just such a book.”

Times Higher Education

"Wajcman delivers one sharp tap after another at the calcified interpretations that surround [technological] changes. It leaves the reader with a clear sense that the paradox of becoming trapped by devices that promise to free us follows, not from the technology itself, but from habits and attitudes that go unchallenged. . . . Pressed for Time helps elucidate how things shaped up as they have. It seems less paradoxical than pathological, but Wajcman suggests, rather quietly, that it doesn't have to be this way."

Scott McLemee | Inside Higher Ed

“Across her books, Wajcman has chosen issues and problematics that needed to be addressed, examined, and re-interpreted. All her books  share an intense engagement with major conditions that affect many of us. In this book she gives us her kind of analysis of time—its presences and absences, its visible and invisible vectors.”

Saskia Sassen, author of Expulsions

“For all those who experience the time pressure paradox—ever more technological devices promising time-saving efficiency while feeling ever more harried—this brilliantly written book offers a fresh look at the temporal landscape in the digital age. It rejects the technological promise of speed as the ultimate telos of innovation and the perspective that we are all temporal victims of digitalization. Multiple temporalities coevolve with emergent technologies, shaped by gender relations and the value accorded to work-life and leisure balance. The dynamics of technological digitalization closes off some options while opening up others, thus encouraging us to think of an alternative politics of time.”

Helga Nowotny, author of Time: The Modern and Postmodern Experience

“Wajcman integrates the voluminous literatures on time use and technology elegantly and concisely, a great service in itself. But, more important, she wisely leads the reader to new questions, more interesting and fruitful than the ones to which we are accustomed, helping us to think in terms not of quantities (of time or stress, of work or leisure) but of the flows and rhythms that we produce as we interact with technology and with one another. This is an essential addition to any bookshelf or syllabus on the social implications of information technology.”

Paul DiMaggio | Princeton University

"An authoritative yet accessible treatise. . . . A star turn from one of the UK’s most important sociologists."

LSE Review of Books

Table of Contents

Introduction: Tools for Time

1 High-Speed Society: Is the Pace of Life Accelerating?
2 Time and Motion: Machines and the Making of Modernity
3 The Time-Pressure Paradox
4 Working with Constant Connectivity
5 Doing Domestic Time
6 Time to Talk: Intimacy through Technology
7 Finding Time in a Digital Age



Society for Social Studies of Science: Ludwik Fleck Prize

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