Reflections on Reading

I want to start with the Past and Present reading on Time. The theme that seems to be running through this class most often is that of relativity. In this article, Thompson is arguing many things, one of which is that even time is relative. He uses the example of a group of people who do not have any notion of the word time, and simply go about their day without it. Thompson also proves that with the development of industrialization, time began to equal money, which lead to the importance of time.

I thought this article was fascinating because in my previous semester spent in England, the biggest difference I noted in cultures was the relationship to time. In England, the streets were crowded with business people all hours of the day, every day of the week. My friends and I joked that no one seemed to work in England. American’s always need to have three things to do, they cannot simply sit and enjoy: this would be considered wasting valuable time. Thompson addresses this by noting how American’s perfected working with time long ago with Henry Ford. Why is it that the English seem so ambivalent to the passing of time (they can sit in a crowded park for hours just sitting or talking), while American’s still rigorously believe that time is money?

While I could not relate to the second article as much as to the first, I did still find it interesting. Holquist makes a point to differentiate between policing and surveillance, two words that I previously assumed meant the same thing. I think the stigma in the United States and Europe is that surveillance, especially by the government, is a horrible thing. In this article, however, Holquist argues that in Soviet and pre-Soviet Russia, the point of surveillance was not to monitor, but rather to figure out the moods of their citizens, as well as to help shape their citizens into better people. Holquist also argues that information moved in two separate ways in Russia. He says not only did information move from the people to the government, but also the other way around. I think this is an interesting opinion and one that we do not get usually in America.

Holquist’s final point that he makes in this article is that the use of mass surveillance really blossomed in the Second World War for many reasons. Holquist says one of the main reasons was because governments (not just Russia’s) wanted to see how their soldiers on the front lines were feeling about the war and in general. This mass surveillance shifted after the war, however, and moved from not just soldiers but to every citizen in the country as far as Russia is concerned. This second article left me with many questions, but they are all due in part to my lack of knowledge in Russian history. I was impressed with both author’s obvious enthusiasm for their topics, and found new, interesting topics discussed in both.

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