Two friends tried to create a new time zone -- and they sort of succeeded

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.

Duncan Cheng

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.

Duncan Cheng

One afternoon at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, they handed out the timekeepers to a dozen study participants.

Duncan Cheng

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.

Duncan Cheng

From that point on, everyone's clock advanced at different speeds depending on their perception of a minute.

Duncan Cheng

Choi and Kang set the group loose in the museum, asking that they return to the starting point by 3:30 in the afternoon.

Duncan Cheng

As they wandered, participants noted feeling particularly mindful about the passing of time.

Duncan Cheng

'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.'

Duncan Cheng

'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.'

Duncan Cheng

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.

Duncan Cheng

'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.'

Duncan Cheng

Choi and Kang hosted the event again at the MoMA PS1 Print Shop recently, and there are future sessions in the works. Watch the video to learn more.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.