Time Binding

Harold Innis, a communications theorist writing in the first half of the twentieth century, coined the terms ‘time binding’ and ‘space binding’ to explain the impact of the dimensions of time and space on communication technologies.

Innis identified stone, clay tablets and scribal manuscripts as time-binding media, which facilitate the endurance of messages across time. Less durable or tangible media such as newsprint, celluloid or radio and television broadcasts were identified as space-binding media, which facilitate the expansion of messages across space. In Empire and Communications (Innis, 1950) he demonstrated that civilisations should seek to strike a balance between time-binding and space-binding media. He found civilisations that did not had fallen when an imbalance occurred or monopolies of knowledge existed which favoured either space-binding or time-binding media.

In recalibrating Innis’ theories for a contemporary context, print could be described as the more durable and fixed time-binding medium, while screen-based media could be viewed as more ephemeral and fluid space-binding media. In this context, the tension between print and pixel is age-old and has plagued many civilisations that struggled to balance time-binding media (favouring tradition, stability and religion) and space-binding media (favouring change, materialism and secularism) in the past.

To explore this concept, I created over 400 booklets which were exhibited during the Graduate and Post Graduate Exhibition of Work 2014. The booklets were A6 folding to A7 in size, with print on only the first and last pages.

“With words we tattoo time…the legacy of our story selves.”

The remaining pages in the booklets were left blank. I asked visitors to the exhibition to take a booklet and write something in it, to think of it like a Facebook post they could read twenty years from now. It could be profound or mundane, it didn’t matter. Without exception everyone who participated wanted to ‘think’ about what they would write. I wonder if the same consideration would have been required if I had asked them to post to Facebook.

The perceived durability and fixity of the medium had directly impacted the content. I had thought of methods of retrieving the information from individual booklets, but realised this would go against its time-binding nature. The booklets are out there, ready to be found and read years from now, but they are not part of a searchable database, their contents are space-limited.

Legacy Spines

The booklet covers reflected this notion of fragmentation, dispersion and lack of hypertextuality. I sliced the word ‘Legacy’ into 400 unique slices and these became the spines for each booklet. Each booklets spine means nothing when viewed in isolation, but when all 400 booklets are stacked in the correct order, the word ‘legacy’ can be read.


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