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Working with Timelines

"AS THE SUN DISAPPEARED AND THE BLUE DUSK SET IN, PEOPLE OF ALL AGES SAT QUIETLY IN THE KITCHEN OR ON PORCHES, ALON OR IN COMPANY, NOT TALKING, STARING OFF INTO SPACE OR EYES CLOSED, THINKING ABOUT THE DAY AND OTHER THINGS. (...) JUST SILENCE AND ONE'S OWN THOUGHTS, DARKER AND DARKER AS THE DUSK TURNED TO NIGHT, UNTIL THE DARKNESS WAS TOTAL. AND ONLY THEN WAS A FIRE OR LANTERN LIT, OR THE LIGHTS TURNED ON" - KURA SKYMNING HALLA SKYMNING (FROM "THE SECRET WORLD OF DOING NOTHING", 2010)

Time is real. We experience its passing every day when we watch clocks tick, coffee brewing, and people growing old. But most physicists, from Newton to today's quantum theorists, have seen things differently. The scientific case for time beinf an illusion is formidable. In one of his books on crisis in physics, Lee Smolin (Time reborn. from the crisis in physics to the future of the universe.2013) talks about a world made out of a "heap of moments," each an instant of frozen time. We exist only for moment to moment. If we experience time passing, it's because this particular moment has memories of another moment woven into it. 

Embracing the reality of time in design opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. The same as a space is not only a juxtaposition of points and surfaces, time is not only a successive and linear entity. Our interpretation of it changes as we experience the space around us. Space turns into time and time turns into space. 

The history of cinema in itself represents a continuous quest to control time perception and manipulate it. From jumps in timelines (flashback, flasjforward, flash sideways) to slowing down or speeding the time-flow (morphing, slow-mo, frozen time): a multitude of effects are used to shape the perception of the space of a movie. 

The world of cinema inspired me to also try to approach time as a tool for shaping the reality of a given situation. I started to think about the possibilities to use time behaviours as regulatory aspects of a game's organizational system. In my research project for Ersta Palliative Care Hospice (Nov.-Dec. 2012) I was aiming to understand how the body in pain shapes and reshapes this relationship between space and time. 

An interesting example of a game that uses time manipulations is ACHRON, a multiplayer real time strategy game where you have the ability to granularly manipulate time to best your oponent. So your actions have a ripple effect on the other players. 

Could you use an engine like that to solve complex problems or look at new scenarious for an organization? The possibilities could be gamechanging.

IMAGE CREDIT: David Ryan Andersson: Lost timeline Infographic from designinfographics

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