3.3.D. The Evolution of Temporality: towards an Integral Time

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3.3.D. The Evolution of Temporality: towards an Integral Time

Commons-based peer production and the associated work culture, the hacker ethic, also represent a milestone in the history of temporality. A quick reminder of the history of temporal experience according to our premodern-modern-postmodern scheme will show this. Tribal people and early agricultural civilizations lived in a cyclic time, following the rhythm of nature and of associated religious rituals. In many aspects it was an experience of an eternal now. Ancestors and mythical creators of the civilizations were deemed not to live in a distant and remote past, but in the same temporality. Agricultural civilizations started developing conceptions of long-term cycles, and they often came into cycles of progressive degeneration (as in the Hindu time scheme ending with the Kali Yuga, the end time of the Iron Age) that would then bring on a new cycle of cycles: the myth of eternal return. This would change with the advent of the monotheistic religions which in some sense prefigured modernity. Temporality became progressive, going from past to future, seen as an apocalyptic liberation. Modernity started viewing time in a calculating fashion, in discrete blocks which could be measured and managed, and the Judeo-Christian temporal line was transformed into the ideology of Progress. Time was essentially being made abstract, quantified and stripped of quality, spatialized. But with modernity came stress: human time became enslaved to the time of capitalist efficiency, to the time of the machines, to the cycles of commerce.

These trends find their apotheosis in our current postmodern times, where competition has become a matter of speed, where the economy becomes a 24/7 affair. We have described this state of hypercompetition, coupled with time-space condensation, and the extension of efficiency thinking to the private sphere, in our section on the hacker ethic, showing also its psychological unsustainability. Many of our contemporaries are now time-sick, imprisoned by very short term thinking, their time horizon collapsing. Another element associated with current time experience is the emergence of a collective world-time, collapsing into a single mass-lived experience through the role of the mass media. Paradigmatic was the first Gulf War incident, where millions of people where watching a missile go down on a Baghdad target.

We have often argued how current trends both exacerbate certain aspects of modernity, while at the same time counter-trends point to alternatives going beyond it. The same thing might be said about peer to peer temporality. If postmodernity brought us the supreme alienation of a permanent now collapsing other temporal necessities and experiences, infiltrating even our private time of intimacy, exhibiting a temporal imperialism, then peer to peer temporality shows the promise of an 'integral time'.

We argued that CBPP projects offered a number of advantages such as the self-management of time. Classic industrial production described jobs in great detail, calculating every move (Taylorism) and controlled the debit of each worker (volume of production in the shortest possible time). In postmodernity, the focus is on the objectives and results, and on the deadlines in which they have to be achieved. For many workers today, their life is one of competing deadlines, and the hundreds of interruptions that stand in the way.

Cooperative CBPP projects traditionally reject such rigid schemes. While work on such projects can be fairly intense, and can be very 'fast' as well, this intensity emerges from the natural life rhythms of the collaborators. It is not imposed from the outside. It is rather the different subgroups which start to condition each other, the time spans are generated internally, more organically following the self-unfolding patters of the creative work. The human is no longer enslaved to time. There is in fact no clear connection between time spent on a project and its inherent quality , as many in the artistic world have experienced, and t his model is now expanding in other productive fields, as generic knowledge work is creative as well. Whereas in modernity, say the Fordist/Taylorist paradigm, the focus is on 'quantity', and in postmodernity the focus is still on embedding qualitative concerns into the straightjacket of high-pressure objectives and deadlines, in peer to peer, the focus is more exclusively on quality. 'Work' is about transforming something into a desired use value, and the success is measured in how well the use value has been created. The process follows a individual and collective self-unfolding in which the various subprojects condition each other, gradually coalescing into both a desired but also unforeseen outcome.

This shift in temporal experience also has political consequences, outlined by John Holloway in his Revolution without Power. Typical for modernity was that transformed Judeo-Christian underpinnings of socialist ideology had fused with the apocalyptic and utopian time sense, gave rise to the counter-time of the revolution, for the wait for a radical transformation or for the next reform. It was either the reformist time who did not change the 'system as such', or the revolutionary time which did everything for the system's destruction. In both cases there was no integration between the present now and the desired future. Integral time points to another solution. Living in the now, in the refusal of contributing to the self-destruction of our civilization, can be combined by building the alternative as a continuing process .

This is a whole new temporal experience. We call it 'integral time' because it represents a autonomous mastery of time, where the different temporal experiences (cyclical, linear, etc…) become transparent and used 'at the right time'. The time for intimacy, the time for rest and relaxation, the time for intellectual and spiritual renewal, all have their different rhythms, which can be acknowledged in CBPP projects, in a way that they cannot in the hypercompetitive for-profit world.