Traveling at the speed of life
Professor's fledgling e-zine examines how technology is quickening our pace
Ben Agger received a speedy response from contributors to his new electronic journal. With a name like Fast Capitalism, you’d expect nothing less.
“It’s been surprising and instantaneous,” said the UTA sociology professor. “Almost as soon as we posted the call for papers, I began to receive both inquiries and papers. And not just from the U.S., but from all over the world and nearly every continent.”
The online publication examines the impact of technologies on self, society and culture and looks at “fast” life in all of its ramifications. Dr. Agger summarizes the journal’s purpose in one sentence: “What are the positives and negatives of these rapid and global information technologies on people and their everyday lives?”
These subjects offer no shortage of information.
“I’m almost at the point of having too much to publish in the first issue,” he said. “We’re thinking about breaking it into two parts. Maybe doing Vol. 1, No. 1 and Vol. 1, No. 2 relatively close together.”
Most of the nine papers accepted for the first edition are from the United States, with others from Australia, England and Canada. All address the social sciences and humanities. “The call for papers was written in a way to solicit folks on both sides of that intellectual divide,” Agger said.
One of the papers, contributed by a scholar at Cambridge University, examines cellphones in everyday life. “She describes something that I haven’t found to be common yet in the U.S., but that’s probably—as my kids would know—because I’m out of it,” Agger joked. “She describes English college students and even high school students as having two cellphones. One is high priority—it’s a number they give out to people they really want to call them. The second is for a lower-echelon set of calls.
“She said it’s ubiquitous in England and also, she thinks, throughout Europe. I guess the point is they want people who are calling to have to work extra hard to get them.”
The first issue of Fast Capitalism will be online this fall at www.fastcapitalism.com. The journal is edited by Agger and Professor Timothy W. Luke at Virginia Tech, with whom UTA is partnering to edit and produce the publication.
Some of Agger’s research culminated in the book Speeding Up Fast Capitalism: Cultures, Jobs, Families, Schools, Bodies, which Paradigm Publishers produced this year.
As a social theorist, Agger looks at the big picture of how technology affects lives, whether through cellphones, the Internet or work e-mail. For instance, most people can easily name a list of things they love or hate about e-mail.
“We deal with people without as much ‘friction’ and also with much less time lag than has dominated human communication for over 2,000 years,” he said. “So a lot of this is really new and quite unique. A number of us who have been writing about society and culture are trying to ‘theorize’ the Internet, theorize cellphones, theorize information technologies and communication technologies. We’re trying to figure out how all these things fit into the big picture—the society, social structure, the economy.”
Agger has studied the blurring of lines between work and family lives, with the Internet and cellphones contributing to the fuzziness.
“People do child care and aspects of home maintenance while they’re physically at work, and they work when they’re at home. They work when they’re at Starbucks, and they work when they’re driving to and from appointments.”
These elements have an impact on an individual’s identity.
“I argue, and I’m certainly not the first, that time increasingly is best viewed as a scarce resource,” Agger said. “And this institutional blurring … helps make time even scarcer.”
— Laura Hanna