Timescales takes into account that human activity is situated within and across time (e.g., seconds, minutes, days, weeks, years). According to Lemke (2000), there are many timescales present within a space and such variability in pacing and sequencing are prevalent in the process of doing social science research. For example, whereas some instances of navigation may be measured in smaller timescales like video recording one classroom lesson, other instances involve longer spans of interactivity like on-going participation in online gaming. In both cases, timescales offers a coherent means for researching the range of social and semiotic design flows that transpires. As Lemke (2009) states, “In some very basic sense the use or function of every media work is not just to link a producer and a user, but to link across the timescales of production, circulation, and use” (p. 143).

Timescales provide a continuum for experientially and empirically engaging with time in multimodal designs. In studies utilising multimedia and hypertexts, navigating multiple timescales are increasingly common given that these spaces are not structured in a single unifying narrative or in the sequence of a thesis. With this mediational shift, applying traditional notions of print-based readings are no longer adequate for the layered, linked and looped configurations prevalent in multimodal and digital environments.

Timescale is often associated with multimodal analysis of temporal sequencing in digital environments. Among the most prevalent application of timescales are evident in studies utilising video-based and technology mediated research (e.g., music, gaming). More recently, timescales is applied to multimodal analysis of online environments (e.g., social semiotics in social media sites).

Editor: Myrrh Domingo

Key References

Lemke, J. (2000).
‘Across the scales of time: artifacts, activities, and meanings in ecosocial systems.’
Mind, Culture and Activity 7(4): pp. 273-90.

Lemke, J. (2009).
Multimodality, identity and time.
In C. Jewitt (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis (pp. 140–150). Abingdon: Routledge.