First Monday

More, Faster, Better: Governance in an Age of Overload, Busyness, and Speed by David M. Levy

While today’s information technologies provide powerful means to connect us to one another and to vast sources of information, there is increasing evidence that they are also having the opposite effect: disconnecting and distancing us from ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, information overload and the accelerating pace of life — conditions the technologies encourage if not determine — appear to be contributing to health problems, decreased work satisfaction and productivity, as well as to the diminishment of our ethical, social, and political faculties. This paper will focus on the ways current conditions may be limiting our ability to control or govern ourselves, both personally and politically, by driving out slower, “endangered” practices, such as time to think and reflect, time to listen, and time to cultivate our humanity. Drawing a parallel with the environmental movement, it will argue for cultivating and replenishing these endangered habitats, designing spaces and times for reflection and contemplation in the service of mature governance.


1. Introduction
2. Vannevar Bush and Josef Pieper: A Study in Contrasts
3. More, Faster, Better
4. Governance in an Age of Overload, Busyness, and Speed
5. What Can Be Done?
6. Environmentalism for the Information Age
7. Sanctuaries in Time and Space



1. Introduction

Just days before the conference on Governance in Cyberspace began, a news story appeared on the front page of the New York Times that seemed to exemplify, sadly and poignantly, the issues I was planning to address. On 25 April 2005 a speeding Japanese commuter train crashed into an apartment building killing at least 91 people. The train’s driver, it now appears, was ninety seconds behind schedule and was trying to catch up. Titled “In Japan Crash, Time Obsession May Be Culprit” [1], the Times article noted that “the accident has already caused much soul–searching over Japan’s attention — some would say obsession — with punctuality and efficiency. To many, the driver’s single–minded focus on making up the 90 seconds seemed to reveal the weak points of a society where the trains really do run on time, but where people have lost sight of the bigger picture.”

Japan, of course, isn’t the only country obsessed with punctuality and efficiency. Neither is speed the only condition of modern life that threatens people’s awareness of “the bigger picture.” Nor, for that matter, is transportation the only technology that puts us at risk. These days, it’s our information technologies that can take much of the credit, as well as the blame, for the speed at which we’re operating. Immersed in a sea of media, information sources, technologies and devices, many of us are now becoming aware of the downside — some would say the dark side — of these powerful new modes of communicating and acting. Certainly there is great value in the amount and variety of information the Web and other digital applications provide, but more and more, people report feeling overloaded, overwhelmed, and oppressed by the amount of information they find themselves sifting through; by the fragmentary nature of the info–bits they are consuming and their own fragmented states of mind; and by the speedy, manic quality of their days, which the technologies seem to encourage if not determine.

In this article, I want to explore some of the consequences of our current “more–faster–better” philosophy of life. My central concern is that this mode of living has the potential to distract us from what is most real and important, from “the bigger picture” of our lives. As Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, observed nearly thirty years ago: “In a world where information is relatively scarce and where problems for decision are few and simple, information is always a positive good. In a world where attention is a major scarce resource, information may be an expensive luxury, for it may turn our attention from what is important to what is unimportant. We cannot afford to attend to information simply because it is there.” [2] Paradoxical though it may seem, the very technologies that claim to connect us to one another and to the world faster and more effectively may also — at times and in various ways — be producing the opposite effect: disconnecting and distancing us, alienating us from ourselves and the world around us. The consequences of this disconnection may include health problems, decreased work satisfaction and productivity, as well as the diminishment of our ethical, social, and political faculties.

I want to focus in particular on the ways in which these conditions may be limiting our ability to control or govern ourselves. Governing ourselves wisely and well, whether individually or collectively, requires us to bring our best human qualities to bear, including our intelligence, curiosity, patience, courage, and empathy. Democratic governance in particular, which has been described as “a form of organization in which all people have opportunities to develop their capacities as independent moral agents and to influence the basic, shared circumstances of their lives” [3], places a heavy burden upon us both to nurture and to exercise these qualities. But what if our mode of life precludes, or at least severely limits, our ability to develop them? How well can we nurture and develop some of the crowning qualities of our humanity — which include the ability to reflect and reason deeply and to respond empathetically and effectively to the needs of others — when we have so little time to attend to ourselves and the world? How can we achieve wise political self–governance without the conditions that nurture mature personal self–governance?

I will argue that our more–faster–better attitude, which is intimately connected with the striving for technological advance, is driving out slower practices that are essential to our ability to govern ourselves with maturity. Without adequate time to think and reflect, time to listen, and time to cultivate our humanity, and without spaces that are protected from the constant intrusion of information and noise, I do not see how we can respond to the innumerable social and political challenges of the new millennium with the quality of attention they deserve. In order to rectify this state of affairs, I will suggest that we take steps to design spaces and times for reflection and contemplation [4]. Much as the modern–day environmental movement has worked to cultivate and preserve certain natural habitats, such as wetlands and old growth forests, for the health of the planet, so too should we now begin to cultivate and preserve certain human habitats for the sake of our own well–being.



2. Vannevar Bush and Josef Pieper: A Study in Contrasts

I begin by exploring what two influential thinkers had to say in the mid–1940s in response to the quickening pace of life and the explosion of information. Both men, horrified by the devastation wrought by the war and hoping to inspire their nations to greater wisdom and prosperity, made proposals intended to encourage thought and reflection. Yet they spoke to these issues from radically different vantage points, and came to radically different conclusions about what needed to be done.

Vannevar Bush, an American born in 1890, was trained as an electrical engineer and for the first part of his career worked as a professor and an administrator at MIT. During World War II he ran the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) through which he oversaw an extensive network of academic scientists who collaborated with military and corporate partners to design weapons and code encryption and decryption systems. In this capacity, Bush was famous enough to appear on the cover of Time in April of 1944. Yet today he is best remembered not for his technical work or his contribution to winning the war, but for an article he published in the Atlantic Monthly in July, 1945, titled “As We May Think” (Bush, 1945a) [5].

In this article, Bush begins by asking: to what worthy causes scientists should devote themselves once the war has ended? By way of answer he identifies a problem he considers to be very much in need of solution, which he characterizes this way: “There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers — conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.” [6] Although he doesn’t use today’s terminology, the problem he identifies we would now call information overload.

Bush was also explicit about why an overabundance of information was a threat to the research enterprise: By enmeshing researchers in the endless practical details of managing the record, including the selection of relevant materials, a surfeit of information would leave them less time to think. Here Bush was careful to distinguish between two kinds or modes of thought. One was routine or repetitive: “logical processes of thought” that ran “along an accepted groove.” Arithmetic was such an instance, for “[a]dding a column of figures is a repetitive thought process.” The other mode of thought he described as “mature” and “creative”: the real work of deep and original thinking. The first he believed could be automated, but not the second: “For mature thought,” he said, “there is no mechanical substitute. But creative thought and essentially repetitive thought are very different things. For [repetitive thought] there are, and may be, powerful mechanical aids.” [7] Bush’s intention was clear: by automating the routine aspects of thinking, such as search and selection, to free up researchers’ time to think more deeply and creatively.

At the heart of the article is a proposal to develop the memex, a device that would allow researchers to read materials stored in microfilm format and to create associative indexes, “the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another.” [8] Today Bush is generally credited with inventing the notion of hypertext, the ability to establish links between one piece of text and another. His paper is known to have excited and motivated other researchers, including Douglas Englebart, Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, and Tim Berners–Lee, who went on to develop computational tools in the spirit of what Bush first imagined. Indeed, there is a direct chain of influence from the memex to the World Wide Web.

Josef Pieper, a German Catholic philosopher, was born in 1904. In his work, one writer noted in an obituary (Pieper died in 1997 at the age of 93), “the Greek philosophical tradition and the Christian theological tradition met and enriched each other.” (Meilaender, 1998) His best–known book, Musse und Kult, was published in Germany in 1948, and subsequently appeared in English in 1952 with the title, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (Pieper, 1952). It was republished in 1998 in a new translation (Pieper, 1998).

Like Bush, Pieper opens his work with a rhetorical question about how to proceed in the aftermath of the war. Pieper asks: How can Germany reconstruct itself not just economically but morally? How can it not only secure its survival but “[put] in order again [its] entire moral and intellectual heritage”? [9] He worries that an over–emphasis on economic development, to the exclusion of other human concerns, will prevent the new German republic from recovering its deeper, life–giving roots in Western culture. For Germany, Pieper claims, is in danger of creating a world of “total work.” “[T]he world of work is becoming our entire world,” he says; “it threatens to engulf us completely, and the demands of the world of work become greater and greater, till at last they make a ‘total’ claim upon the whole of human nature.” [10]

To avoid this fate, Pieper suggests, Germany needs to recover the practice of leisure. But by leisure, he doesn’t mean what we today take the word to mean: vacations at the beach, an afternoon spent at the ballgame, or otherwise taking time off. Instead, he is calling up the original Greek notion of leisure. For the Greeks, leisure was the highest good, the ultimate aim of human life, and work was a lesser, though still necessary, form of activity. This prioritization was directly reflected in their language: their only word for work could be translated literally as “not–leisure.” Work was what needed to be done for the sake of something else: spinning wool in order to make clothing, lighting a fire in order to keep warm, building a house in order to be sheltered from the elements. Leisure, by contrast, was that which required no justification beyond itself; philosophy, the arts, and the celebration of festivals fell under this category for the Greeks because they were simply an expression of the human spirit and its true life in the world. (It is from this distinction that the modern notion of the “liberal arts” is derived; the liberal arts are those free of any need to justify themselves in terms of utility.)

Like Bush, Pieper was concerned with the future of thinking and reflection. Like Bush, he distinguished between two kinds or modes of thinking, but he used language originally derived from ancient Greek and medieval philosophy to name them:

“The medievals distinguished between the intellect as ratio and the intellect as intellectus. Ratio is the power of discursive thought, of searching and re–searching, abstracting, refining, and concluding [cf. Latin dis–currere, ‘to run to and fro’], whereas intellectus refers to the ability of ‘simply looking’ (simplex intuitus), to which the truth presents itself as a landscape presents itself to the eye. The spiritual knowing power of the human mind, as the ancients understood it, is really two things in one: ratio and intellectus: all knowing involves both. The path of discursive reasoning is accompanied and penetrated by the intellectus’ untiring vision, which is not active but passive, or better, receptive — a receptively operating power of the intellect.” [11]

Here then is a study in contrasts: two thinkers writing at virtually the same time about how society should proceed in the aftermath of the war. Bush was an engineer and a technocrat; Pieper was a philosopher. Bush wrote from the perspective of the soon–to–be victorious; Pieper wrote as a member of a vanquished nation just beginning to address the problems of economic and social reconstruction. Each identified a problem — for Bush, it was too much information; for Pieper, too much work — which they felt was an obstacle to creative thought and reflection. Not surprisingly, each man offered a significantly different solution. For Bush the engineer, the solution was more and better technology; for Pieper the philosopher and theologian, it was the recovery of a dimension of human existence.

Still, both couched their concerns in moral terms. Both were concerned with the challenge of making the transition to a more peaceful and prosperous world; both wanted to avoid another devastating war. Bush in his position as director of OSRD knew only too well that “[t]he applications of science” had “enabled [human beings] to throw masses of people against one another with cruel weapons.” His hope was that more sophisticated tools to manage the human record might allow humans to “better review [their] shady past and analyze more completely and objectively [their] present problems” and thereby “grow in the wisdom of race experience.” [12]

Pieper clearly realized that valuing leisure over work might seem shocking to his postwar audience, that it might appear to be a celebration of laziness and idleness. So he invoked Thomas Aquinas to argue that leisure, rightly understood and practiced, is hardly idleness; on the contrary, it is frenetic overwork that constitutes a form of idleness, and it is overwork — or “the restlessness of a self–destructive work–fanaticism” [13] — that is the true moral lapse. Here Pieper understood idleness not as dawdling or slacking off in the modern sense, as simply lazily lying about, but rather, following the medieval scholastics, as a failure to engage fully and responsibly with oneself and the world. In this older understanding, idleness — or acedia, to use a now largely forgotten word — meant “that the human being had given up on the very responsibility that comes with his dignity: ... that he does not want to be what he really, and in the ultimate sense, is.” [14]

Idleness or acedia, in this understanding, is a distancing and disengagement from reality. Leisure, by contrast, is an openness to reality, to things as they are, rather than as we wish them to be. As Pieper observed:

“Leisure is a form of that stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear. Such stillness as this is not mere soundlessness or a dead muteness; it means, rather, that the soul’s power, as real, of responding to the real — a co–respondence, eternally established in nature — has not yet descended into words. Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion — in the real.” [15]

Looking at a world engaged in postwar reconstruction, Pieper could see how the obsessive drive to work ever faster and harder might rob people of their humanity, their responsibility to family and community — how harried and driven workers might be distracted and absent.



3. More, Faster, Better

Today, 60 years after its publication, Bush’s article is recognized as a seminal work, one that foreshadowed, and possibly invented, hypertext, and that laid the groundwork for the field of information science. Most of the attention, understandably, has been devoted to the central portion of the paper, where Bush envisions the memex; considerably less attention has been paid to the problem Bush hoped the memex would solve. In these past sixty years, huge technical strides have been made. Networked computers and globally accessible hypertext in many ways exceed anything that Bush proposed or imagined. Yet it is hard to deny that the specific problems Bush wanted to address, information overload and specialization, have not been solved. The specialization of disciplines has, if anything, increased, and along with it the difficulty of bridging across disciplines. Scholars continue to feel bogged down by the quantity and variety of the literature; not only is the scientific and scholarly record immense and growing rapidly, so too is the record in many other spheres of human endeavor. (In their 2003 report, Lyman and Varian estimate that the amount of new information stored electronically and in print about doubled between 1999 and 2002). What’s more, despite Bush’s hope to free up more reflection time for research, the life of today’s academic is more pressured and busy, with less time to think than ever (I will have more to say about this in Section 7 below). On the face of it, then, the development of personal digital information systems and global hypertext seems not to have solved the problem Bush identified but to have exacerbated it.

Whatever good may have come from Bush’s essay — and it is considerable — his ideas do seem to have played into the scenario Pieper feared. Our new tools enable us to work longer and harder; and more so than at any time since Pieper’s book appeared, we are in a position to understand what he described as the restless and destructive side of work, a form of fanaticism. Increasingly, people are expressing concern, both privately and publicly, about a related set of phenomena: the difficulty in sorting through and managing vast amounts of information (information overload); the challenge of managing overly full schedules and the extreme busyness of daily life; and the stress of operating in a world where the pace of life isn’t just fast but accelerating.

Our era, however, is hardly the first to express such concerns. Although the phrase “information overload” is of recent origin [16], complaints about an “overabundance of books” have been voiced for centuries [17]. Life in urban centers has long given rise to complaints about the frantic busyness of daily activities, as compared with the pace of life in rural and suburban areas; in 1903 Georg Simmel famously wrote about “the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli” in the metropolis [18]. And as Harmut Rosa has recently observed a “general sense of ‘speed–up’ has accompanied modern society at least since the middle of the eighteenth century”; indeed, “the history of modernity seems to be characterized by a wide–ranging speed–up of all kinds of technological, economic, social, and cultural processes and by a picking up of the general pace of life” [19].

What is at work here, essentially, is a more–faster–better philosophy of life. Since the Industrial Revolution at least, technology and social practice have co–evolved with the aim of maximizing speed, output, and efficiency. Producing and consuming more stuff (products, services, ideas) is now the driving force in the West, and is spreading across the planet via globalization (Beniger, 1986; Yates, 1989). Today’s digital technologies and the complex economic and social practices associated with them are simply the latest actors in this process.

And increasingly, there is evidence that working and living in today’s technology–rich, speed–obsessed, information–saturated world is taking its toll on us. In their study of Americans’ use of time, John Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey conclude that Americans are starving for time: “Every culture,” they say, “is haunted by factors that seem to be beyond its control: weather, war, disease, religious prejudice, boredom, starvation. At present, American society is starving — not the starvation of the Somalis or other traditional cultures, who die for lack of food, but for the ultimate scarcity of the postmodern world, time. Starving for time does not result in death, but rather, as ancient Athenian philosophers observed, in never beginning to live.” [20]

Peter C. Whybrow, director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA, calls this mode of life “manic.” “[T]here is evidence,” he declares in his recent book, American Mania: When More is Not Enough, “that America’s technology–driven Fast New World is already testing the limits of human physiology. In fact, the stimulus–saturated and helter–skelter existence that it fosters is at the root of the discomfort and of the health problems that many Americans are now experiencing.” [21] Americans “have passed beyond need and fallen into an addictive striving for more: for more money, more speed, more house, more car, more food, more choice, and more power.” The consequences of this unchecked and unbalanced striving include “a competitive, unstable workplace, diminished time for family and community life, fragmented sleep, obesity, anxiety, and chronic stress.” [22]



4. Governance in an Age of Overload, Busyness, and Speed

Inevitably, there are also consequences of this more–faster–better attitude for the way we govern ourselves, both personally and politically. Early Enlightenment figures felt that democracy could only prosper in an atmosphere of reflection and debate. And Alexis de Tocqueville, in his written observations of early nineteenth century America, foresaw the possibility that American democracy might collapse through the efforts of a government that subtly limited the ability of its citizens to think and act, and therefore to govern themselves. He suggested that political control would be achieved not through the actions of a brutal tyrant but by an apparently benevolent government acting as “guardian” and seeking to keep its citizens in “perpetual childhood”:

“For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?” [23]

Such a government, de Tocqueville thought, would “enslave men in the minor details of life,” through “a network of small complicated rules.” And through such “servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind”:

“The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” [24]

Subtly and gradually, the people lose “the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually [fall] below the level of humanity.” [25] In this way, a regime would discourage people from being present to one another and themselves; it would discourage depth of feeling, sensation, and reflection. And through such means it would hope to limit people’s contact with their moral centers and their deepest humanity, making them docile and pliable.

Certainly the easy availability of information and the increasing pace of life can at times be empowering and even exhilarating, but too much stimulation can lead to numbing, a loss of focus, and withdrawal: it can dumb down, enervate and even stupefy.

While Tocqueville’s account was never meant as prophesy, it does identify certain recognizable features of twenty–first century America, which might give us pause. Certainly the easy availability of information and the increasing pace of life can at times be empowering and even exhilarating, but too much stimulation can lead to numbing, a loss of focus, and withdrawal: it can dumb down, enervate and even stupefy. Indeed, for Whybrow the underside of American mania is depression: a loss of direction, energy, and will. Who among us hasn’t felt enslaved in the minor details of life, and felt that their most important concerns and questions were forever being deferred? But we needn’t believe that these forces are the intentional result of a government bent on controlling us to see that the flood of information, the ever–mounting set of tasks, the accelerating pace of life, and the unrelenting sense of urgency could well affect our ability to govern ourselves, both in the personal and the political sense. Indeed, if a society wanted to exert powerful control, it could do worse than to cause its citizens to run faster and faster after elusive and ill–specified goals, leaving them less time to reflect on the big picture.

William E. Scheuerman, a professor of political science at Indiana University, has written extensively on the role that busyness and acceleration seem now to be playing in absenting citizens from the political process. He sees American political participation in decline: “If we ignore the minute group of citizens intensely involved in political affairs on a regular basis, ‘active citizenship’ in the United States means little more than catching wind of the latest ‘headline news’ buzzwords, consuming some tidbits from a daily newspaper, paying haphazard attention to major political campaigns (which increasingly consist of little more than TV ad slugfests), and perhaps voting in a national election. But for a significant number of present–day U.S. citizens, significantly less political involvement represents the norm.” [26] And he points to speed and busyness as significant causes: “At worst,” he suggests, “busyness generates political disinterest and apathy: many of our fellow citizens openly describe the most fundamental form of democratic participation, the vote, as a ‘waste of time.’ At best it seems to privilege an acceleration of political activity: we seek speedy and rapidly consummated types of involvement that do not unduly add to the enormous time pressures we already feel. Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether even such high–speed forms of citizen involvement are normatively satisfactory. Can liberal democracy flourish when a growing number of us avoid the responsibilities of citizenship altogether, while even those of us who try to remain politically involved insist that we be dealt with quickly and painlessly?” [27]

There are of course many ways in which today’s conditions serve to limit our participation not only in the political process but in the fullness of our lives. For now I want to focus on three of these, all of which have serious consequences both for personal and political self–governance, namely the lack of time to think, to listen, and to cultivate our human depths and virtues.

Time to Think

It is often said that an informed citizenry is a cornerstone of the democratic process — that giving voters correct and useful information in a timely fashion will allow them to make free and responsible political decisions. In its simplest form, this credo holds that giving people access to the necessary information is sufficient to safeguard our democratic institutions. But clearly this is wrong: more information isn’t always better — with regard to governance, or any other dimension of our lives, for that matter. Indeed, a deluge of information may lead us to be less informed, not more, and make it harder for us to act. As Michael Schudson, a communications professor at UC San Diego, observes sarcastically: “Everyone can know everything! Each citizen will have the voting record of every politician at his or her fingertips! A whole world of political knowledge is as close as one’s computer and as fast as one’s dial–up connection! Imagine a voter information guide not a mere hundred pages long, like California’s in 2000, or 400 pages long, like Oregon’s, but ten million pages long — and online! Oh, joy! Oh, rapture!” [28] One might have access to all the information one could possibly want and still not have the time to sift through it, to muse about it, to critique and synthesize it. An informed and responsible citizen needs time to think.

It might be argued that not everyone has the same need for reflection, because of their differing occupational and life circumstances, and surely this is right. But the lack of time to think deeply, to the extent that it pervades our educational system, our media, and our political leaders, affects the entire culture. As Thomas Eriksen, a Norwegian anthropologist, has observed, “Acceleration affects both the production of knowledge and the very mode of thought in contemporary culture, and therefore concerns everybody.” [29]

Time to Listen

The democratic process also depends on free–wheeling discussion and debate. As a nation, we pride ourselves on and fiercely defend the right of free speech, which allows a broad diversity of views to be aired. But along with the right to speak, might there not also be a responsibility to listen? Gemma Corradi Fiumara (Fiumara, 1990), an Italian professor of philosophy, calls listening “the other side of language.” “[A]s long as we move in a noosphere,” she says, “that is saturated with both scientific and intellectual discourses constantly reaching out to inform, permeate, and mould, the process of listening can never be more than a minimal philosophical aspiration or the concern of a minority.” [30] Listening well and deeply is an art, and it is difficult, if not impossible to listen well when one is rushed, fatigued, or overloaded. (As Josef Pieper observed, “only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear.”) Should it be surprising if in today’s world it often seems that everyone is talking and no one is listening?

“Deliberation and debate,” says Scheuerman, “requires a willingness to hear others out, carefully consider their views, and then formulate a thoughtful response.” [31] Yet ours is an “argument culture,” as the linguist Deborah Tannen (Tannen, 1998) points out, in which choosing sides, scoring points and winning generally take precedence over genuine understanding. A recent scientific study reported in the New York Times (B. Carey, 2006) offers evidence that when people who hold strong politically partisan views are given contravening information, they reject those views quickly and unconsciously using a part of their brain more associated with emotional activity than with reasoning. They never fully hear what doesn’t fit their beliefs. “It is possible to override these biases,” one of the scientists involved in the study is quoted as saying, “but you have to engage in ruthless self–reflection, to say, ‘All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.’” Evidently in order to hear others, we must also be able to hear ourselves.

Time to Cultivate Our Humanity

It can be hard enough to make use of such skills when one is in the thick of an argument. But it is impossible if one has never developed the knack for “ruthless self–reflection” in the first place; and such abilities only come with a substantial commitment to self–awareness, observation, and discovery. In a commencement address at Columbia University, his alma mater, the Trappist monk, poet and social critic Thomas Merton argued that it is “[t]he purpose of education is to show a person how to define himself authentically and spontaneously in relation to his world” in order to allow him “to make a lucid and conscious use of [his] freedom.” But he went on to warn that: “A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here or there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions ... is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of ‘choice’ when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses. It is not free because it is unwilling to face the risk of self–discovery.” [32]

We need time and attention to cultivate the depths of our humanity: to develop our capacity for mature thinking and listening, for insight and empathy. Writing in 1998, the novelist Richard Ford observed that “the pace of life feels morally dangerous.” He worried that in today’s fast–paced, overloaded world “vital qualities of our character [may] become obsolete: our capacity to deliberate, to be patient, to forgive, to remain, to observe, to empathize ...” (Ford, 1998) Peter Whybrow too raises these concerns. Human empathy, he suggests, “functions as the immune system of civil society.” [33] It is a delicate commodity, however, that must be cultivated within families and the larger community. But in today’s manic society, personal relationships, family life, and the intimate bonds of community are being weakened, thus limiting the opportunities for the cultivation of empathetic understanding.



5. What Can Be Done?

So what can, and should, be done about this state of affairs? One obvious answer is, nothing. James Carey notes a strong historical tendency in the U.S. to see the latest information and communications technologies as instruments of an unalloyed progress and as an unqualified boon to democracy. (Paul Duguid [1996] calls this view “liberation technology.”) From this angle, the history of these technologies appear as “the story of the expansion of the powers of human knowledge, the steady democratization of culture, the enlargement of freedom and the erosion of monopolies of knowledge, and the strengthening of the structures of democratic politics. From the onset of literacy through the latest in computational gadgets, it is the story of the progressive liberation of the human spirit. More information is available and is made to move faster: ignorance is ended; civil strife is brought under control; and a beneficent future, moral and political, as well as economic, is opened by the irresistible tendencies of technology.” [34] If this is one’s attitude, there isn’t any problem to solve; the concerns that have been raised to this point will either be seen as positive outcomes or as minor but necessary side effects of a much–to–be–celebrated trend.

A second response is to want to pull the plug on the whole enterprise, to enact some kind of across–the–board slowdown. It is hard to imagine, though, how this could be accomplished. Short of a major natural or social catastrophe (an ecological disaster or a nuclear holocaust), there would seem to be no way to stunt the powerful global forces at work today, the interplay between technological and economic development. More important, perhaps, is the realization that acceleration is the source of many societal benefits that we would be foolish to relinquish. William Connolly considers speed to be an “ambiguous medium”: On the one hand, “[a]t a certain point of acceleration, it jeopardizes freedom and shortens the time in which to engage ecological issues”; but on the other hand, “the crawl of slow time contains injuries, dangers, and repressive tendencies too.” [35] To this Scheuerman adds, “A slow–paced society might reduce busyness and thereby provide greater time for active citizenship, but citizenship in such a society would likely reproduce the worst elements of every static and unchanging social order: it too would prove parochial and perhaps even suffocating from the perspective of those of us accustomed to the liberties of modern liberal democracy.” [36] There is nothing particularly liberating, he argues, about slow, authoritarian cultures; and the speed of change in present society serves as an important stimulus to tolerance, diversity, and social mobility.

From this line of reasoning, Scheuerman proposes a different response: to figure out how speed might help to rejuvenate citizenship. “Speed and its cousin busyness are here to stay,” he says; “the real question is how we can preserve the indispensable normative kernel of liberal democratic citizenship while some of its forms inevitably undergo acceleration.” But how exactly to do this? Although the Internet “has hardly morphed into a site for idealized models of deliberative democracy,” he is hopeful that “meaningful cyber–citizenship” is attainable [37]. Without endorsing specific proposals, he points to certain promising developments, including the use of the Internet: to make government documents available to citizens, thus increasing the openness and transparency of government decision making; by legislators as a medium of debate and discussion; and, as a medium for broad popular deliberation and exchange [38].

Michael Schudson too proposes that we make the best use of speed and busyness to promote positive self–governance. But his analysis of our past and present circumstances is different than Scheuerman’s, and so too is his proposal. Schudson argues that today we place too much weight on the idea of the informed citizen. He is in agreement with Scheuerman that there truly is too much relevant political information out there and too little time to digest it. If the future of democracy rests entirely on the backs, or the brains, of highly informed citizens, Schudson would agree that we are in big trouble. But our popular conception of the informed citizen is not only an impossible ideal but a relatively recent and partial understanding of how democracy has actually worked in this country. In his book The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (Schudson, 2002) and in a subsequent article, “Click Here for Democracy” (Schudson, 2004), Schudson explains that the idea of the informed citizen is a Progressive Era invention. Contrary to our current understanding and rhetoric, “The founders’ faith in an informed citizenry was slight. ... They viewed elections as affairs in which local citizens would vote for esteemed leaders of sound character and good family, deferring to a candidate’s social pedigree more than siding with his policy preferences.” [39] This deference to community leaders was superseded by a system of political parties, beginning in the 1830s. It was only in the late nineteenth century, with the adoption of the Australian ballot, that a new conception of the voter was born, “the individual, educated, rational voter as the model citizen.” [40] More recently, since the 1950s, yet another conception of the ideal citizen has emerged, that of the “rights–conscious” citizen, for whom the courtroom has become the locus of civic participation as much as the voting booth, as under–represented groups (ethnic minorities, religious groups, women, the handicapped) have argued for and gained a variety of rights from the federal government. Today, Schudson claims, the notion of the informed citizen may still dominate popular understanding and political rhetoric, but it has been partly displaced by the model of the rights–conscious citizen.

If the idea of the informed citizen has less of a foundational role in the American political system than we typically assume, it should be easier for us to imagine other solutions to the problems of overload, busyness, and speedup. Schudson proposes the idea of the “monitorial citizen,” who delegates more to political professionals, but at the same time is “watchful, even while he or she is doing something else” [41], and who is prepared to engage with particular political issues as they rise to prominence. He points out that in so many other areas of life we delegate critical societal responsibilities to dedicated professionals — to fire fighters, teachers, and doctors, for example. Why then shouldn’t we delegate to trusted politicians and other political professionals, as well as to citizen experts, whom we rely upon to monitor particular issues?

Clearly, there is much of value in Scheuerman’s and Schudson’s proposals. Both recognize that life is too fast, too busy, and too information–saturated for people to handle comfortably or with full competence. Both realize that the new technologies can, and should, help us to accelerate or to delegate certain activities. Neither of them, however, addresses one particular dimension of the current dilemma head–on: There is no getting around the fact that mature and successful self–governance requires substantial amounts of time for thought and reflection, for listening and personal development — whether by dedicated professionals, by ordinary citizens, or both; and there are aspects of deliberation and reflection that cannot be accelerated and cannot be delegated. As Rosa points out, while many aspects of society can be speeded up, some simply cannot be: “... there are natural and anthropological speed limits. Some things cannot be accelerated in principle. Among these are most physical processes, like the speed of perception and processing in our brains and bodies, or the time it takes for most natural resources to reproduce.” [42]

Thinking is one such activity. Certainly aspects of thinking — or at least of the research process — can be speeded up: Personal computers, the World Wide Web and Google–like search engines make it remarkably fast and easy to locate sources, to combine and compare them — to do the kinds of thinking work the medieval scholastics called ratio (“searching and re–searching, abstracting, refining, and concluding”). But for the more creative dimensions of thinking — its mature aspects, as Vannevar Bush referred to them, or the intellectus, in the language of the medieval scholastics — there are no shortcuts.

The problem comes, as in current society, when “fast time” takes priority over “slow time” — when those activities that seem to require urgent attention continually take priority over other activities that may ultimately be more important, but are continually deferred. As Eriksen puts it: “When fast and slow time meet, fast time wins. This is why one never gets the important things done because there is always something else one has to do first. Naturally, we will always tend to do the most urgent tasks first. In this way, the slow and long–term activities lose out. In an age when the distinctions between work and leisure are being erased, and efficiency seems to be the only value in economics, politics and research, this is really bad news for things like thorough, far–sighted work, play and long–term love relationships.” [43] (This prioritization of fast time explains in large measure why Vannevar Bush’s proposal hasn’t yielded additional time for mature and creative thought. The problem isn’t so much with the technologies per se but with the more–faster–better attitude that privileges and rewards fast–time activities.)

Proposals to make the best use of fast time to support and sustain self–governance, while important, are therefore incomplete. We also need to cultivate critical slow–time activities: time for thinking, reflection, and listening. Rather than naively celebrating current conditions, engaging in a futile and counterproductive attempt to roll them back, or simply making the best of speed and busyness, we might instead begin figuring out how to preserve certain critical slow time activities at the same time we make the best use of the fast — in other words, how to strike a harmonious balance between fast and slow. We might think of this as a new kind of environmental challenge — to create sanctuaries in space and time.



6. Environmentalism for the Information Age

It is now forty years since the modern environmental movement emerged. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring appeared in 1962; the first Earth Day took place in 1970. From such activities, awareness spread that unchecked urbanization and industrialization were unbalancing, and could potentially destroy, the Earth’s precious natural balance. In the years since, we have witnessed a huge investment of human energy directed at research, public discussion and debate, policy–setting, and education. It is now understood that the planet is a tremendously complex ecosystem which cannot sustain itself unless we actively protect certain dimensions of it — healthy forests, oceans, and wetlands; a broad diversity of living organisms — from human development and industrial pollution. Yes, there is still a good deal of debate — about the nature and extent of global warming, for example — but no one can deny that these decades have produced greater understanding and an impressive range of corrective interventions.

We might think of this environmental story proceeding in four stages. The first consisted of a long period of expansion: centuries of largely unreflective and unchecked industrial production, population growth, and settlement. The second was the dawning awareness of limits: a realization that the Earth’s natural resources are finite and therefore exhaustible; that by–products of industrialization are polluting land, air, and oceans; and that the failure to respect these limits could lead to the destruction of the entire planetary ecosystem. The third stage, still ongoing, concerns the pursuit of greater understanding of the nature and extent of the problem — through extensive research, public discussion and debate, education, and activism. And the fourth stage, also underway, is about corrective action: establishing norms, laws, and policies to change human behavior (the use of hybrid cars, the placing of restrictions on automobile emissions and industrial pollution).

I suggest we think of today’s busyness, acceleration, and information glut along these same lines. There has been a centuries–long period of expansion as the rapid development of new information technologies, from the telegraph through the Internet, has made it possible to create an ever–increasing number of easily distributable and consumable information products. Coextensive with this has been a largely unreflective and unchecked “acceleration of just about everything,” to invoke the subtitle of James Gleick’s 1999 book (Gleick, 1999). We are just now beginning to realize that there are limits to this expansion. Unlike industrial production, however, there are no natural limits to information production; but there are natural, neurological limits to our attentional capacity. As Warren Thorngate, a Canadian psychologist, observed twenty years ago:

“Information is supposed to be that which informs, but nothing can inform without some attentional investment. Alas, there is no evidence that the rate at which a member of our species can spend attentional resources has increased to any significant degree in the past 10,000 years. As a result, competition for our limited attention has grown in direct proportion to the amount of information available. Because information has been proliferating at such an enormous rate, we have reached the point where attention is an extremely scarce resource, so scarce that extreme measures — from telemarketing to terrorism — have proliferated as fast as information just to capture a bit of it. No longer can we believe that information is always an asset, that seeking or consuming it is preferable to ignorance.” [44]

We are also increasingly realizing we have a problem with the quality as well as the quantity of information; some forms of information, such as spam, are quite literally pollutants. And evidence is mounting that there are limits to the speed at which we can healthfully and productively operate. “[I]t is difficult to deny,” Whybrow asserts, “the accumulating data indicating that America’s manic pursuit, and the frenzied life we lead every day, are damaging to individual and civic health.” There is a “growing mismatch in American life between who we are as evolved creatures and the social environment that we have built for ourselves.” We are discovering, he claims, that “when it comes to technology innovation, human ingenuity is capable of building environments that are so addictive to our ancient instinct for self–reward that we can make ourselves sick — pushing the physiology of mind and body to the limits of its tolerance, and beyond.” [45] It isn’t the planet’s natural balance that’s at stake here but ours.

The parallel with environmentalism suggests that next steps will include a substantial commitment to research, education, and public debate in order to clarify the nature and extent of the problem and to begin to develop effective responses. (Some of this work is already underway, as can been in the stream of books with titles like Faster and American Mania; in the press coverage given to early scientific studies on the subject; in the public concern being expressed about the effects of multitasking on adults and children; and in the birth of new movements such as Take Back Your Time.) The parallel with environmentalism may also suggest the general shape of the solutions we seek. For the environmental response to unchecked industrialization and human development has never been to eliminate these activities but to balance them. No one has seriously suggested that we solve the environmental crisis by eliminating cities or urban expansion, or by ceasing industrial production. Viable solutions all aim to create a balance between these expansive practices and other dimensions of earthly existence — the cultivation of healthy oceans, air, forests, and wetlands in parallel with the pursuit of sustainable development. So too, in the case of today’s “manic pursuit,” the answer will not be to prevent the proliferation of information or to slow down the pace of life across the board but to limit and balance these practices. We will need to cultivate unhurried activities and quiet places, sanctuaries in time and space for reflection and contemplation.



7. Sanctuaries in Time and Space

If this seems hard to imagine, let me point to an ancient institution, the Sabbath, as a source of inspiration, if not as a literal blueprint, for the creation of sanctuaries in time. The basic intent behind the Sabbath, as it has existed within all three of the Abrahamic traditions, is to establish a rhythm of work and rest or restitution. As the practice arose within Judaism, it consisted not only of a weekly cycle (six days of work followed by a day of rest), but a seven–year agricultural cycle (six years of cultivation followed by a year in which the fields lay fallow), and an economic cycle (forty–nine years of lending and borrowing and a fiftieth year, the jubilee year, in which all debts were forgiven).

While the Sabbath is a distinctly religious institution, its import cannot be appreciated without taking into account its social, political, and ethical significance. “The greatest invention of the Hebrews,” says James Carey, “was the idea of the Sabbath ... the invention of a region free from control of the state and commerce where another dimension of life could be experienced and where altered forms of social relationship could occur. As such, the Sabbath has always been a major resistance to state and market power.” [46] Indeed, the idea that workers and citizens deserve a day off from productive labor and market consumption, that these forms of activities must be balanced by slow and “leisurely” time, is a radical political idea. The existence of the weekend in America today is the direct result of Sabbath–inspired political action: the establishment of Sunday as a day off through the efforts of the Christian Sabbatarian movement in the early nineteenth century, and the establishment of Saturday as a second weekend day through the efforts of the labor movement in conjunction with Jewish leaders in the 1920s (Hunnicutt, 1979).

These days, however, both Sabbath time and weekend time are less distinctly etched on the calendar. Blue laws, the product of the Sabbatarian movement, have largely been repealed. The distinction between the work week and the weekend, between work time and home/family time, has been further blurred as workers increasingly work from home, or other locations, at any time of day or night; and as the “leisure” practiced on weekends is more likely to involve commercial consumption and other forms of accelerated activity than the mode of leisure about which Pieper spoke. These encroachments are yet another manifestation of our more–faster–better attitude toward life, which are leading us to live more and more of our lives in the marketplace — as busy producers and consumers — and less and less as reflective and engaged citizens. In order “to function as other–regarding, democratic citizens during those critical moments when it counts,” says Richard Sclove, “there is a certain minimum amount of space and time that we need in our lives to experience ourselves and others as something more than mere drudging workers, self–promoting careerists, or acquisitive consumers.” [47]

How might such space and time be created? I by no means want to argue for the broad-scale adoption of traditional Sabbath practices — whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim — by the larger population. Certainly individuals and communities may choose to do so, as they have for centuries, and for these people the institution will continue to offer time out from the manic dimensions of our culture. But for the rest of the population, the Sabbath can perhaps best serve as a “proof of concept” and an inspiration to create new forms of sanctuary time. How might we build Sabbath time into our work and family lives, perhaps on a daily basis? How might we create this kind of time in educational settings, where time to reflect is in shamefully short supply? And how might we open up the space and time for deliberation in the political sphere, for professional politicians, as well as for ordinary citizens? I could speak to the ways I myself am experimenting with such ideas at home and in the workplace, but effective change will most importantly come through collective reflection, experimentation, and action: local communities creating sanctuaries that fit their particular circumstances.

In thinking about how to create sanctuaries in space, I suggest we look to the academy as an actual site where slow–time activities can be cultivated. Universities are quite literally the “think tanks” of our culture, where scholars pursue research and train the next generation of scholars, professionals, and citizens. They have strong contemplative roots: The first universities, created by the medieval scholastics or schoolmen, arose from the monastery schools; and our words “school” and “scholar” derive from the Latin schola, which is a direct translation of the Greek word for leisure or contemplation. Even today, scholarship at its best involves focused, sustained, and receptive inquiry that is undeniably contemplative.

Yet today’s universities — their faculty, students, and staff — are increasingly caught up in the current cultural frenzy; academics are now busier and more overloaded than ever before. The pressure on faculty to obtain outside funding is intense and increasing as the pool of available funds shrinks; time spent searching for potential funding sources, writing grant proposals, and shepherding them through intricate bureaucratic procedures is simply added on to the other expectations of the job. Teaching and advising students are extremely time–consuming and demanding activities, as they have always been, but new technologies such as e–mail, by increasing the opportunities for online contact between faculty and students, have also increased student expectations that instructors should and will be available for consultation at all hours of the day and night, weekends included. E–mail has also made professors that much more reachable by the general public, the press, and academics at other institutions, which at times is a nuisance and at others a source of inspiration and opportunity, in either case bringing further demands on their time. Academics today face the same difficulty as the rest of the culture in guarding their time and minimizing interruptions; yet paradoxically, in trying to carve out the space and time for reading, writing, study and reflection, they are battling to make room for activities supposedly central to their mission.

A telling example can be found in Evelyn Fox Keller’s biography of the Nobel Prize–winning geneticist, Barbara McClintock. McClintock was known for the concentration, patience, and intimacy with which she scrutinized each of her specimens; she believed the discoveries she made were a direct result of the time she took to look at and understand each of her individual corn plants. After giving a lecture at Harvard, Keller relates, McClintock “met informally with a group of graduate and postdoctoral students. They were responsive to her exhortation that they ‘take the time and look,’ but they were also troubled. Where does one get the time to look and to think? They argued that the new technology of molecular biology is self–propelling. It doesn’t leave time. There’s always the next experiment, the next sequencing to do. The pace of current research seems to preclude such a contemplative stance.” [48]

McClintock’s meeting with Harvard students took place in the early 1980s. If questions were being raised then about the pace of academic life and its consequences for looking and thinking, how much more urgent might these questions be now? But to be clear: I don’t mean to suggest that opportunities for deep reflection and contemplative inquiry are completely absent from the university, but rather that the conditions that support these practices are diminishing. Still, with their roots in contemplative practice and an ongoing commitment to scholarship, universities might well be the place to create experimental sanctuaries in space, where slower and more contemplative forms of inquiry are practiced and taught, where research is conducted to demonstrate the value (and perhaps even the necessity) of such practices, and where students are given the time and the guidance, in Merton’s words, “to find themselves on the deepest possible level.” [49] Through such efforts, universities could become a home for intellectus, as much as for ratio.

In conclusion, it seems clear that living in an accelerating, information–saturated culture is taking its toll on us — on our bodies and our psyches, as well as on our ability to govern ourselves with the wisdom and compassion of which we are capable. But I am convinced that with further reflection on the causes and conditions of these trends, we can begin to understand how to achieve a more balanced mode of living. Ironically, time for reflection is exactly what today’s circumstances seem to preclude. Which makes the cultivation and refinement of reflective and contemplative practices essential ingredients of a satisfactory resolution — at once both means and end. End of article


About the author

David M. Levy, a professor in the Information School at the University of Washington, is exploring quality of life in the digital environment. He is the author of Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age (New York: Arcade, 2001). Much of this paper was written while he was the holder of the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology at the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress.



My thanks to Sandra Braman, Thomas Malaby, and Michael Schudson for reading and commenting on drafts of this paper.



1. Onishi, 2005, p. 2.

2. Simon, 1978, p. 13.

3. Sclove, 2004, pp. 38–39.

4. The American Heritage Dictionary (fourth edition) defines contemplation as “thoughtful observation or study.” To contemplate, it says, is “to look at attentively and thoughtfully” or “to consider carefully and at length; [to] meditate on or ponder.” Contemplation covers a range of human activities, from everyday states of reflection to deep states of concentrated attention. But what seems to be common to them all is an attitude of quiet receptivity to whatever one is investigating.

5. A variant of the original article appeared in Life later the same year (Bush, 1945b). The original article has been republished a number of times and can be found on the Web. Unfortunately, the version at the Atlantic’s online site (, once freely available, is now only available to paid subscribers. Page references in the present article are to a reprint (Bush, 1991) that includes the text of both the Atlantic Monthly and the Life versions, and reveals the differences between them.

6. Bush, 1991, pp. 88–89.

7. Bush, 1991, p. 95.

8. Bush, 1991, p. 103.

9. Pieper, 1998, p. 3.

10. Pieper, 1998, p. 140.

11. Pieper, 1998, p. 11.

12. Bush, 1991, p. 107.

13. Pieper, 1998, p. 27.

14. Pieper, 1998, p. 28.

15. Pieper, 1998, p. 31.

16. The earliest reference I have found to “information overload” is in Alvin Toffler’s 1970 bestseller, Future Shock. In Chapter 16, “Future Shock: The Psychological Dimension,” there is a subsection titled “Information Overload” which begins: “If overstimulation at the sensory level increases the distortion with which we perceive reality, cognitive overstimulation interferes with our ability to ‘think.’” See Toffler, 1970, p. 350.

17. Rosenberg, 2003, p. 2.

18. Simmel, 1950, p. 410.

19. Rosa, 2003, p. 3. Rosa identifies three types of acceleration: technological acceleration, the acceleration of social change, and the acceleration of the pace of life. Technological acceleration refers to the speedup of transportation, communication and production, a movement that has taken us from sailing ships to jet liners, and from the postal service to e–mail. The acceleration of social change is the increased rate at which core social institutions have changed — in the case of the family, for example, how inter–generational stability has given way to intra–generational flux: “there is a growing tendency for family life–cycles to last less than an individual lifespan: increasing rates of divorce and remarriage are the most obvious evidence for this.” The acceleration of the pace of life has to do with the increasing rate at which everyday activities operate: time spent “eating, sleeping, going for a walk, playing, talking to one’s family, etc.” See Rosa, 2003, pp. 8–9.

20. Robinson and Godbey, 1997, p. 34.

21. Whybrow, 2005, p. 78.

22. Whybrow, 2005, p. 106. Also see the New York Times article, “Always on the Job, Employees Pay with Health” (Schwartz, 2004), which begins: “American workers are stressed out, and in an unforgiving economy, they are becoming more so every day. Sixty–two percent say their workload has increased over the last six months; 53 percent say work leaves them ‘overtired and overwhelmed.’ ... Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and stroke to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable impact on workers’ health and, by extension, on companies’ bottom lines.”

23. Tocqueville, 1945, p. 318.

24. Tocqueville, 1945, p. 319.

25. Tocqueville, 1945, p. 321.

26. Scheuerman, 2005, p. 455.

27. Scheuerman, 2005, p. 447.

28. Schudson, 2004, p. 55.

29. Eriksen, 2001, p. 148.

30. Fiumara, 1990, p. 19.

31. Scheuerman, 2005, p. 457.

32. Merton, 1979, pp. 3–4.

33. Whybrow, 2005, p. 218.

34. J.W. Carey, 1989, pp. 147–148.

35. Connolly, 2000, p. 598.

36. Scheuerman, 2005, p. 464.

37. Scheuerman, 2005, pp. 465–466.

38. Scheuerman, 2004, pp. 205–209.

39. Schudson, 2004, p. 51.

40. Schudson, 2004, p. 53.

41. Schudson, 2002, p. 311.

42. Rosa, 2003, p. 15.

43. Eriksen, 2001, p. 150.

44. Thorngate, 1988, p. 248.

45. Whybrow, 2005, pp. 186–187.

46. J.W. Carey, 1989, p. 227.

47. Sclove, 2004, p. 45.

48. Keller, 1983, p. 206.

49. Libraries may well be useful partners in this work. They too have contemplative roots. And today, even as huge amounts of money and energy are being poured into digital collections and infrastructure, new libraries are being built and old libraries refurbished. The message seems to be that people want digital access, but they also want physical spaces within which to congregate, read, reflect, and study. Surely it is no accident that libraries’ most cherished spaces are their reading rooms, which provide quiet access, often within inspiring architectural settings.



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Editorial history

Paper received 15 August 2006; revised 31 October 2006; accepted 3 November 2006.

Contents Index

Copyright ©2006, First Monday.

Copyright ©2006, David M. Levy All Rights Reserved.

More, Faster, Better: Governance in an Age of Overload, Busyness, and Speed by David M. Levy
First Monday, special issue number 7 (September 2006),