The New Now”: Time in the Age of the Progress Bar

The existence of the progress bar has changed our perception of time and made us hyper-aware of time change. This, in turn, has killed the uniqueness of now. The bar points up the exact instant in time we occupy, but it also emphasizes the easiness of change and how unattached to the moment we are.

Time Matter

The progress bar has materialized time: time needed to load a website, time left to buffer a streamed video, time since a song started playing, etc. Originally intended just for visualizing time, the Progress Bar has, literally, turn time into bits and pixels.

Finally, we can see time, measure its speed and perceive its change. For the first time, we can also locate future events in the space” of time.

Controlling time

With faster speeds of broadband, the old Preload Bar is dying in favor of the Seek Bar in playback controls for streamed content. Again users are given context for time, and what’s more, now they are given control.

We are becoming more and more sensible to the perception of time. This is consequence, not just of this materialization of time”, but also of our increasingly high levels of external stimulus and multitasking abilities.

The New Now”

The static immutable Now” is dying and a new perception of time is taking its place. As technology evolves and our senses grow more accustomed to the new order, we will embrace multiple scrubbing possibilities: pausing, skipping ahead, and replaying the times that we so choose to. Some might say that scrubbing and skipping ahead are skills that will prove invaluable.

We might not be able to travel in time in the literal sense, but we will be in greater control when managing information and dealing with linear processes in the future.

February 20, 2010 ☼ futurethoughts