Notes about handling the ‘culture of speed’

I recently read a book called The Culture of Speed by John Tomlinson. Here is my review of it on Goodreads:

I made some notes out of it, because they resonate with the ‘down time’ that I have been going through since November 2012.

  • Downshifting‘: to change a highly paid but stressful job for one that makes it possible to improve quality of life in other respects. (Microsoft Encarta English Dictionary) Tomlinson 2007: 150. So THIS is what I was trying to do… Abu Dhabi job wasn’t always stressful, but it was weird.. Frustrating somehow, for lack of enough sense, direction, meaning..
  • p.153: Slowlondon: “The irony is that in a way it is lazy to live a fast life. Everyone else is doing it so why should I be any different? Slowness is activity. A positive activity with a quality of balance and measuredness.
  • P.153: Balance has connotations that are attractive to modern ideals of identity: for example the idea of poise. To possess poise is to have style, composure and calm self-assurance in social situations. It is a positive, dynamic characteristic: to be ready to act or respond. In such associations, the idea of cultivating balance in response to the pace of life engages with modern vitality and looks much more promising for telling a compelling story about how life might best be lived in accelerating times.
  • P.157: How the ‘cautiously affirmative’ attitude towards speed can be reconciled with the ‘slow value’ of balance-as-control. How can we preserve deliberative time-space in both personal-existential and institutional terms? What sort of culturally regulative principles can be appropriate to acceleration?
  • P.157-58: Since speed is not homogeneous, it should be possible to build slow zones into our cultural-institutional practices as a selective form of applying the brakes. In this spirit, Connolly recommends the general provision of ‘structural opportunities for periodic escape and retreat from a fast-paced life’ in the form of sabbatical programmes and increased opportunities for midlife education. ‘Such retreats enable us to revisit from time to time selective assumptions and dispositions that have gripped us and to refresh our energies to re-enter the rat race’. Good proposals, but not enough in themselves.
  • P.158: Balance-as-control is not about coming to rest. It’s more or less the opposite: a process of constant reflexive re-balancing in the face of contingency.
  • P.159: Hope lies in disclosing the reward for this effort. This means tapping the sense that existence is a state of becoming, at once pregnant with possibilities and fragile and precarious. If this raw sensibility is kept to the fore of the cultural narrative, the rewards of applying this effort to maintaining feedback loops and continually re-balancing our lives becomes clearer. It is to experience ourselves as capably and sensitively attuned to our fast-moving environment and so as existentially flexible, responsive and resilient.
  • P.159: The promise of the narrative of mechanical speed was order and progress. The attractions of immediacy are lightly achieved comforts and satisfactions. But neither of these can deliver existential fulfillment or security in the face of the temporally compressed contingencies of contemporary acceleration. Virtue to be found in speed is quite different: it is to apply effort to become nimble and graceful life-performers. The goal is balance. The reward is poise.