Jonathan Crary’s 24/7 is a cranky, smart, quick and cuttingly-relevant read.
Some passages I found elegant, thought-provoking, and unsettling:
Behind the vacuity of the catchphrase, 24/7 is a static redundancy that disavows its relation to the rythmic and periodic textures of human life. It connotes an arbitrary, uninflected schema of a week, extracted from any unfolding of variegated or cumulative experience[…]A 24/7 environment has the semblance of a social world, but it is actually a non-social model of machinic performance and a suspension of living that does not disclose the human cost required to sustain its effectiveness. It must be distinguished from what Lukács and others in the early twentieth century identified as the empty, homogenous time of modernity, the metric or calendar time of nations, of finance or industry, from which individual hopes or projects were excluded. What is new is the sweeping abandonment of the pretense that time is coupled to any long-term undertakings, even to fantasies of “progress” or development. An illuminated 24/7 world without shadows is the final capitalist mirage of post-history, of an exorcisim of hte otherness that is the motor of historical change. (9)
If 24/7 can be provisionally conceptualized as an order-word, its force is not as a demand for actual compliance or conformity to its apodictic format. Rather, the effectiveness of 24/7 lies in the incompatibility it lays bare, in the discrpancy between a human life-world and the evocation of a switched-on universe for which no off switch exists. Of course, no individual can ever be shopping, gaming, working, blogging, downloading or texting 24/7. However, since no moment, place or situation now exists in which one can not shop, consume, or exploit networked resources, there is a relentless incursion of the non-time of 24/7 into every aspect of social or personal life. There are, for example, almost no circumstances now that can not be recorded or archived as digital imagery or information. The promotion and adoption of wireless technologies, and their annihilation of the singularity of place and event, is simply an after-effect of new institutional requirements. In its despoliation of the rich textures and indeterminations of human time, 24/7 simultaneously incites an unsustainable and self-liquidating identification with its fantasmatic requirements; it solicits an open-ended but always unfinished investment in the many products for facilitating this identification. (30-31)
The narrow and monopolized set of electronic products and services available at any given moment masquerades as the all-enveloping phenomenon of “technology.” Even a partial refusal of the intensively marketed offerings of multinational corporations is construed as opposition to technology itself. (49)