Net.times, not Swatch Time

A Corporate Attempt to Set a New Time Standard

net.times, not swatch time by geert lovink The birth of a Corporate Myth: “Internet Time represents a completely new global concept of time: No Time Zones. No Geographical Borders. Swatch has divided the virtual and real day into 1000 “beats”. One Swatch beat is the equivalent of 1 minute 26.4 seconds. That means that 12 noon in the old time system is the equivalent of @500 Swatch beats.” “Every watch is equipped with a new universal time created by Swatch. It is the same all over the world. The current time 24h divided into 1000 units (beats). 000 Internet time is midnight in Biel, the home of Swatch (during Swiss winter time). This is equivalent to UTC+1 (Universal Time Coordinated, former GMT, Greenwich Mean Time).” from: http:/ Amongst its first users: CNN Interactive (, Pioneer Electronics Service, (, CarEngineer Automotive Knowledge Base (,, (, the nu paradigm,, Warez My Ass (,,, Slovenian Internet Directory (,, from: Internet Time Fan Page (2 fans so far…): “The system’s meridian is located, conveniently enough, over the Swatch building in Biel, Switzerland, where midnight strikes @000 beats. The company has also made software that displays Internet time on a computer screen available free from its site on the World Wide Web. About 45,000 people downloaded it in January. Perhaps it is not surprising the notion of a world without time zones strikes a chord even among some of the more gimmick-weary Internet users. With its capacity to collapse distance, the computer network has already managed to alter the physics of space. And whether or not Internet time a la Swatch catches on, the Internet seems to be responsible for an increasing impatience with time as it has been kept thus far.” Amy Harmon, The New York Times ——- Swatch’s unilateral declaration of Internet Time, at first glance, fits into the corporate takeover of the Net. With software from Microsoft, browser and access facilities from AOL, and bandwidth from MCI/Worldcom, your time standard from now on belongs to yet another, Swiss, multinational. So far, no one has yet protested against this old-fashioned top-down model in which corporate machine time is forced onto the computer-related work force. installed the clock on its home page, and so did some others. We could dismiss Swatch Time as a marketing ploy, aiming to sell even more of its flashy lifestyle watches. Finally, Swatch is now tapping into the market of cyber consumer electronics. There is obviously the danger of a new monopoly. Each time we investigate ‘net time’, electronic micro payments will start flowing towards the Biel headquarters. Watches, which are now still a gadget, are quickly dematerializing into software. The Y2K panic is showing that ‘computer time’ (and its standards) has long been ignored, and this neglected aspect is now taking its revenge. The suggestion of generous Swatch managers, now having joined the gift economy, should be regarded with suspicion. The Swatch name and logo, attached to the Internet Time, is a clear indication of what this operation is all about. If only ISOC, the Internet Society, would be a bit more awake, decisive… They could easily come up with a statement that no single company, or any other unit, can simply claim to set such an important standard as Internet Time. And if only the Electronic Frontier Foundation would finally get rid of its hidden, neo-liberal agenda, it could start a campaign within days and show that such insults against freedom, in this case the right to define your own standard of time, is not merely coming from governments, but increasing also from non-accountable corporations, such as Swatch. Cyber rights are more than just privacy issues. Like in the old days of resistance against the industrial (fordist) time regime, we can now smash the virtual Swatch Time Regime: an attractive, new target for hacktivism and other campaigns which are now openly defending, and shaping, the pubic domain within cyberspace, which is neither owned or dominated by the state, nor by capital. So far, there have been no protests against the launch of the Swatch Time. Perhaps its concept of time is just too abstract, and clumsy. Not enough cool, its corporate marketing strategy being too obvious. The claim from Biel to own the brandname of a yet to establish universal time standard does not seem to bother that many people. This may be due to its voluntary character. Swatch is (not yet?) in the position to enforce its time regime on parts of the world population which are actually already subjected to ‘global’ working conditions. A vast majority of the workforce, worldwide, still lives under the sign of agricultural, local time cultures. But this innocent, marginal, ‘avantgardist’ character of the Swatch strategy was suddenly shaken when the company announced in early April 1999 it was planning to broadcast a series of voice and HTML text messages from space using a Russian satellite, renamed into “Beatnik”, originally built for amateur radio communications. According to Wired News, “many ham operators are outraged that amateur airspace will be used for advertising. The leaders of both the French and Russian AMSAT teams deny any knowledge of plans to use the satellite for marketing purposes, according to documents published on a Swatch boycott site. In the letters, the AMSAT leaders distanced themselves from the project and apologize to the ham radio community as amateur bands are prohibited from commercial use by an international amateur radio treaty. On Thursday, April 15, 1999, thanks to the protests of amateur radio operators worldwide, Swatch cancelled the illegal mission, Rob Carlson reported on his “Swatch Protest and Boycott” webpage. “I’m pleased to relay the message of French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneri here: Due to noncompliance to amateur regulations, instructions were received by the Mir crew to cancel the active launch of the rogue satellite and release it in the off position. Haigneri, an amateur radio operator himself, spoke directly to amateur radio operators from the Mir station this Sunday to alleviate concerns about the satellite’s status. Swatch indicated on April 16, 1999 in a full page ad in the New York Times that they had decided to assist the Spaceflight Control Centre and donate the batteries supporting the beatnik satellite to the MIR cosmonauts. This indicates that noncompliance with the rules and regulations of the amateur radio service was indeed an issue, in spite of Swatch’s attempts to sidestep that fact.” Rob Carlson and others do not refer to the agenda of the Swatch Time project itself, but their protest was a legitimate one, and effective as well.

The ideology of a ‘Global time’ is the terror logic of the corporate “world state” (browse for “Mark Stahlman” to find out more about this complex and funky-conspiratiorial term). The tyranny of Global Time stands for the worst aspect of globalism: the 24-hour economy, in which workers’ rights have been abolished all together. The victory of the financial markets over all others sectors and parts of life (See a.o.: Pierre Bourdieu). An impoverished, ‘flexible’ free-lance labour force can be employed day and night, thereby disrupting biological rhythms and social time in general. Manuel Castells, in ‘The Rise of the Network Society’ calls it ‘timeless time’, belonging to the space of flows, chacterized by the ‘breaking down of rhythmicity, either biological or social, associated with the notion of a life cycle.’ It is time, not space or natural resources, which is the key source of value in the age of the Global Casino. Castells relates this ‘edge of forever’ with the denial of death, instant wars and the concept of ‘virtual time’, which is of interest in the case of Swatch. But within this context, Castells does not mention the possible rise of a spaceless, virtual time standard, located within the networks, not longer referring to the geographic Greenwich Mean Time. The tyranny of one global time is already visible in such sectors as banking, transportation, telecom and call centers in particular, airlines, and the service industry in general. And the revolt only has to start: net.strikes, computer sabotage, simulation of work, actions against surveillance, avatars pretending actual presence…

The origins of this ‘gnostic’ project are obvious. We can refer to Barlow’s ‘Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’ (February 1996), the impact this manifesto had on the corporate world, with the Swatch coup d’etat as one of the outcomes. The seductive sex appeal of leaving the messy world behind and starting all over again is still in place and has its legitimate reasons (and market opportunities) It belongs to every self-proclaimed revolution to abolish the previous time/date standard and start all over again at day one. Everyone who has ever been involved in intercontinental chats, video conferencing or webcasts will understand the use of a clear time standard. Too many mistakes have been made with GMT, due to the summer and winter time confusion and the fact that GMT, UK time and the time on the European continent are three different settings. So the attempt of Swatch does make sense within the context of collaborative use of audio, video and text channels. For affluent cyber-youngsters it seems an attractive idea that it is neither day nor night in cyberspace. It is cool to stay up all night, hang out in one of your favorite chat rooms, do together, surf, hack, have some cybersex here and there (whatever that may be). But that is all lifestyle, cleverly used by marketing companies that anticipate further spreading of the attitudes of the early adapters. This marginal cyberculture is getting more and more (mis)used as a pretext for monopolistic profiteering of the worst kind. A clear case of this dubious mixture of media artists and corporate research is etoy, a Swiss pseudo ‘subversive’ group, simulating (anti-) corporate identities, who claiming the authorship over the idea. “The international etoy.CORPORATION operates it’s own surreal time-zone. October 5th 1998 / Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut Rueschlikon / Zuerich, research / development & coding at blasthaus gallery in San Francisco. TIMZONE is about time in the digital age: about travelling the web within milliseconds… jumping between time zones without moving flesh. About permanent access / availability of 24 hours working-power around the globe (this is an important topic for the globally active etoy.CREW, operating from etoy.OFFICE-TANKS (corporate cargo containers) in Zurich, Vienna, San Diego and Manchester). etoy.TIMEZONE is the solution to the insanity of continuous physical travelling through international time zones, for time shifts in international markets and to the problem of getting older (psychological / image problem). etoy.TIMEZONE raises the amount of available working hours per day, keeps the etoy.CREW younger and makes the etoy.UNIVERSE even more enigmatic…” ( Whether etoy was ‘selling’ its original idea to Swatch, or it got ‘stolen’ remains open. The fact remains that this artist group did not resist against the possible implementations of Global Time. Their role remains blurry and in a way innocent, despite their RADICAL image. A will to globalism turning into a site of empty signs.

Stilll, we could become polymorphous, again and again: there are many times, not one time. The diversity of times is in danger. There are the cosmic, astrological, dream times. And there are many cyberspaces, not just the internet. Let the net.times roll, and let us come up with an open source standard, a virtual time which belongs to all, and nobody. Let us fight corporate takeover, and celebrate the wild diversity of all possible wetware times: the ecstatic time of the never-ending rave, the time of fate, the time stretch of the media mixes. There is the extensive time of boredom and reflection, and our intense times of experience and flashes of pleasure and enlightenment. And let us ignore all clocks, specially the ones from Swatch, whether real or virtual. (please look in the archive for responses on an earlier version, posted on December 15, 1998).

———– Notes:

“I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts and each of these new facts brings with it its consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it; though all my actions are bent on erasing the consequences of previous actions and though I manage to achieve appreciable results in this erasure, enough to open my heart to hopes of immediate relief, I must, however, bear in mind that my every move to erase previous events provokes a rain of new events, which complicate the situation worse than before and which I will then, in their turn, have to try to erase. Therefore I must calculate carefully every move so as to achieve the maximum of erasure with the minimum of recomplication.” Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler … public void destroy() { _signal.destroy(); _clock.destroy(); … return; } } Ask AltaVistaTM a question. Or enter a few words in any language “+protest +against +swatch” AltaVista found no document matching your query. Refine your search swatch RN The RealNames link takes you directly to swatch. word count: revolt against time: about 7 AltaVista Recommends: Magazines & Opinion > Socialist/Leftist Welcome, first-time visitors: click here. Learn about’s security guarantee. We were unable to find exact matches for your search: keywords: “+revolt++against++time” Close matches for this search: Revolt Against Chivalry : Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching — Jacquelyn Dowd Hall; Paperback Against the Gods : The Remarkable Story of Risk — Peter L. Bernstein