How is Time Measured?

Last week, we explored what it means to scrapbook chronologically.

But, what do we mean by chronological? What is the unit of time? How is time measured?

While people were making day in the life layouts, when I conducted my interviews, projects or concepts like Project Life, Week in the Life (see mine here), December Daily, or Take Twelve were not as so deeply embedded in scrapbooking culture (at least online scrapbooking culture).

So, for most of you reading this post, you probably already have some idea of the many ways that time is measured by scrapbookers in scrapbook albums (yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily).

In my study, most scrapbookers organized their scrapbooks by unit of time—most commonly a year. Most often the year is based on the calendar, but some respondents measure years in scrapbooks according to the birthday of the main subject (i.e., a child) or by school year (i.e., a scrapbook about one’s college days begins in August, on move-in day). Occasionally, smaller units of time are used. Some scrapbookers do a combination of themed and chronological scrapbooks. If a big event happens (e.g., a vacation or a wedding) during the year, that event might have its own album and may or may not be mentioned in that year’s scrapbook (i.e., cross-referenced).

In general scrapbooks organized chronologically are organized from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. New Year’s Day often begins the album and Christmas often ends the album (unless something else scrapworthy occurs between Christmas and New Year’s Day). One respondent who organizes her scrapbooks by year uses her child’s birthday as the start and end point for the albums. Birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s Day serve as “critical dates” (Zerubavel 1981) or watershed moments (Zerubavel 1997) signaling the beginning of one year and ending of another year (Zerubavel 1981). The decision to use a child’s birthday as the start and end point rather than a calendar based date such as January 1, illustrates the importance of that date to the scrapbooker and just how monumental the date a child is born is to a parent. Scrapbookers compiling education albums generally base the beginning and ending of the scrapbook on the school calendar (i.e., beginning in August with the first day of school and ending the album with the last day of school or graduation).

Most scrapbookers use a combination of a standard-time reckoning framework (or clock time [Levine 1997]) and a social dating framework (or event time [Levine 1997]). A standard time-reckoning framework measures time in standard ways such as a year, month, or day (Zerubavel 1997). Standard time-reckoning is used in that everything that is scrapworthy that occurred in March of 2010 typically will be placed in the scrapbook before scrapworthy things from April 2010. The beginning and end point, however, is based on a social dating framework. For instance, yearly albums about a family may begin whenever the scrapbooker defines the family as beginning (most commonly the wedding or birth of a child). Yearly albums may be compiled (standard time-reckoning framework), but the date the album begins is actually the wedding anniversary or child’s birthday (social dating framework). Some scrapbookers do a combination of different methods of time reckoning in their scrapbooks.

If you organize your scrapbooks chronologically, what is your beginning and end point? Do you use standard time-reckoning or a social dating framework?

References (affiliate links)

Levine, Robert 1997. A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventure of a Social Psychologist. New York: Basic Books. (Public Library)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1981. Hidden Rhythms: Schedules and Calendars in Social Life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (Public Library)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1997. Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Public Library)

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