Abstract - The Information Society 33(5)


The Media of High-Resolution Time: Temporal Frequencies as Infrastructural Resources

Dylan Mulvin

This article offers a short history of the transformation of time signals into a fundamental stability around which new communication infrastructures are built. These infrastructures include the Network Time Protocol, the Global Positioning System, and high frequency trading. This article argues that ‘high-resolution time’ can serve as a useful analytic framework for understanding the making and appropriation of contemporary temporal standards. Contemporary temporal infrastructures—the systems of time measurement and dissemination which subtend communication infrastructures—are based on the vibrations of caesium atoms, which act as fixed points. A focus on resolution aligns an analysis with the ways that time standards are, in practice, treated as both infrastructures and texts. High-resolution time, therefore, offers an understanding of time as a scalable resource built through contingent media practices.


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