Taeyoon Choi and E. Roon Kang have a plan to disrupt time. More specifically, they want to ditch standard time in favour of a made-up alternative called “elsewhen.” This imaginary time zone would measure each passing minute, not by the rotation of the earth, but by a person’s perception of how much time has gone by.
The idea first struck the duo during a video-chat with clients living on the other side of the world. In this virtual hangout, they existed in a unique timespace they created and shared only momentarily.
“It’s almost like we were floating someplace else, between Seoul and New York, and not completely belonging to either,” Kang, a TED Fellow, said on stage at one of the organisation’s retreats, where he recounted their journey.
Over the summer, Choi and Kang decided to make “elsewhen” a reality through a workshop they titled In Search of Personal Time. Here’s how their time-travelling adventure played out.
First, Choi and Kang needed to create a clock that would reflect an individual's personal perception of time, rather than counting 86,400 seconds in a day.
This is the personal timekeeper. It's a numeric display powered by the microcomputer Raspberry Pi and encased in balsa wood, with a multipurpose button on top.
One afternoon at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, they handed out the timekeepers to a dozen study participants.
They asked the group to close their eyes and press and hold the timekeeper's button for however long they thought was a minute -- which wound up being anywhere from 30 and 90 seconds.
From that point on, everyone's clock advanced at different speeds depending on their perception of a minute.
Choi and Kang set the group loose in the museum, asking that they return to the starting point by 3:30 in the afternoon.
'My clock was really fast. Super, super fast,' one participant said. 'So I decided to try to do as many things as I could in order to try to see something.'
'The thing that is interesting about having a device that helps you measure moments,' another participant added, 'is that as soon as I pressed the button it made me more attentive to what I was experiencing and observing in that moment.'
Later, the group reunited in a lab space -- arriving at various intervals due to their mismatched clocks -- where Choi and Kang led a roundtable discussion.
'This idea of not conforming to the standardised time can feel a little far fetched,' Kang says, 'but it's a step toward recognising and respecting the vastly different and beautiful ways we all navigate this complicated world.'
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