Analysing the temporal organisation of daily life: social constraints

Analysing the temporal organisation of daily life: social constraints, practices and
their allocation
Dale Southerton, University of Manchester
By analysing in-depth interviews with twenty-seven people, this paper employs a
theory of practice to explore the relationship between respondents’ ‘non-work’
practices and five dimensions of time (duration, periodicity, sequence,
synchronisation, tempo). It argues that practices which demand a fixed location
within daily schedules anchor temporal organisation, around which are sequenced
sets of inter-related practices. A third category of practices fill the gaps that emerge
within temporal sequences. The most significant socio-demographic constraints
(gender, age, life-course and education) that shaped how respondents’ engaged and
experienced practices in relation to the five dimensions of time are then considered. It
is demonstrated that ‘harriedness’ is a consequence of the difficulty of co-ordinating
practices in time and space. Technologies, best described as convenience devices,
offer individuals the promise of greater control over the allocation of practices within
personal schedules. However, the problem of co-ordination is collective – it requires
the alignment of practices across the schedules of social networks – and in this
context the varying constraints surrounding the allocation of practices produced
different temporal experiences (and anxieties) for men and women.