The Railway Journey

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The Railway Journey by Wolfgang Schivelbusch


Henry Shivelbusch wrote The Railway Journey: The Industrialization and Perception of Time and Space, which concerned the altered perception of time and space at the dawn of the train industry. Before trains, there were no time zones.

The compression and experience of space and time are becoming increasingly important. As technosocial humans we are no longer living in one place at one time. Time has compressed itself so far that we now have time within time, and space within space. While you sit in your apartment, you are experiencing your local time and space but also the digital time and space. By opening up the terminal or browser window, you can experience an entirely different time and space. Geography can be rapidly switched with the touch of a button. This 'fractal time' annihilates geography, allowing the punctuation of one space with another space, one piece of time with another. My iPhone collapses multiple social geographies into one. Facebook, Twitter, SMS, Voicemail, websites, news, incoming calls, notes to my future self, apps, ect. Each digital geography has a different set if natives, some imports, and some immigrants. Each space has different social norms and different ways of presenting oneself. Each space has different social classes and entrance requirements. But with a computer or iPhone, the travel time between those different geographies is almost instantaneous.

In the same way that a cell phone opens up a wormhole between two users for a limited amount of time, social networks open up wormholes to each other through text, creating invisible, 4th dimensional wormholes from person to object to person to object through text. People begin to become hyperlinks, text begins to become social objects, developing personality and having social value.

In the end, all text becomes linkable, all history becomes linkable to the future, every moment capable of being saved, reported, commented on and played back in slow or fast motion. Each reported moment becomes social capital, increasing the amount of embeddedness that networks and nodes have with each other.

As node distance decreases, communication becomes more liquid, and digital geography between two people, thoughts, ideas, or groups becomes more instantly traversed. There become a range of those who are connecting more tightly together and a series of those who remain loosely connected in the analog space. Envision a conical basket whose weave is becoming tighter at one end while the other end remains loose and unconnected, fibers sticking out of the unfinished side of the basket. As time progresses, even these loosely connected fibers begin to weave themselves together, finishing the basket at some point in the future when almost evereything is connected. As in real life, the most connected points of the basket are the strongest.

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