Are there examples of unalloyed devotion

Volume 21, No. 2, Art. 1 - May 2020

The time of reading. Reconstruction of aestheticized proper times and the question of timing in the appropriation of (listening) texts

Miklas Schulz

Summary: Time never appears on its own, it is a relational construct. Times are always times of something. It is therefore important to track down them in their constitutive reference contexts. The article uses interview material to illustrate how questions of time can be empirically ascertained and the subjective experience of time can be reconstructively recorded. This is done using the example of the acquisition of language-bound (listening) texts. In contrast to the book, the audio book has a time structure of its own. It has a predetermined duration of its acquisition, is difficult to accelerate and demands a surrender to its own time. In the case of enjoyable devotion (submission of agency), an aestheticized time can arise on this basis. The agency analysis presented provides information on how people relate to the given order of times (inside and outside) of the (audio) text, or to what extent they themselves produce temporalities within the framework of a media disposition. Such aestheticized proper times sometimes have an important function in coping with everyday life.

Keywords: reconstructive interview research; Agency analysis; sociology of the senses informed by practical theory; aestheticized proper time

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Time analysis preliminary considerations

2.1 Methodical approach

2.2 Reconstructive interview evaluation: Agency analysis and the time dimension

3. Constructions of time as interactions between phenomenon and interpretation

3.1 Surrender or control: the question of timing

3.2 Time as an alloying practice

3.3 Time as a scarce commodity

4. Discussion of methodology and results

5. Conclusion


Appendix: Interview guidelines



To the author



1 Introduction

In this article, the question of time is discussed using the example of the acquisition of different (listening) texts. In particular, audio books can be considered an interesting subject of investigation, since the recording of spoken language always has temporal qualities. This becomes even clearer through the recourse to the aesthesiology of Helmuth PLESSNER (2003 [1970]), who understands language in general - and spoken language in particular - as an acoustic phenomenon that has always been involved in temporality. The auditory perception (of language) also necessarily takes place in the medium of time, i.e. in an arrangement of one after the other, through which its specifically penetrating and meaning-building quality can develop. [1]

Spoken language is thus structured temporally. In the present context of the appropriation of speech-based listening texts, this statement has consequences for the subjective experience of time, which thus becomes recognizable as an aesthetically malleable quantity. Even if the investigation of phenomena that are structured in their own right does not occupy a large space in research, the preoccupation with the appropriation of audio books and radio plays in previous discussions shows references to ideas of a double your time (RÜHR 2008, p.100) and thus a reference on time orders (RAUTENBERG 2007; SCHWETHELM 2010). This means that the audio book is discursivized in the sense of an observation of acceleration as a tried and tested means to counter the quantitative increase in potentially interesting options for action, which lead to a shortening of the time span that can be devoted to each individual object (ROSA 2005) . [2]

Not least against such a background, Irene NEVERLA (2007) developed her "Concept of polychronic time" (p.44), in which a specific order of time - according to her thesis - "through its variability in modern societies, also supported by digital media , interspersed ", whereby this time order" allows both time sovereignty and requires active time management in a highly ambivalent manner "(p.42). Their basic assumption is that "everyone dealing with the media is also dealing with time" (loc. Cit.), Since the use of media is always acting in and with time and, at the same time, acting in time. [3]

Following on from the thesis of polychronic time, the focus of this article is on the question of the interactions between the intrinsic structure of media texts with their appropriation practices and the modes of experience resulting from them. This relationship is illustrated using interviews from the study "Hören als Praxis" (SCHULZ 2018). It becomes clear that the appropriation of scriptural or auditory linguistic signs that creates the references does not have an equally structural temporality. While the phonetic in its constitution automatically carries a dimension of time, the same arises in the case of scriptural text only in the reception process itself. In other words, the following is about the methodical connection between specifically sensual appropriations and the (im) possibility of timing in different text versions . Methodological precautions must be taken for such an analysis. Therefore, time-analytical considerations are introduced in order to check the plausibility of the decision for the evaluation of the interview data via the agency analysis and, based on this, to describe the methodological procedure in more detail (Section 2). In the following, three different time practices are illustrated, which could be systematized in this way in the context of listening text acquisition (section 3) in order to end with a conclusion after a (methodological) discussion about the importance of interview research in practical theory (section 4) (section 5 ). [4]

2. Time analysis preliminary considerations

It has long been customary to research questions about the meaning of time with the help of qualitative interviews (DRESSEL & LANGREITER 2008; FISCHER 2018; MÜNCH 2014). Various studies assume a connection between biographical circumstances and types of time organization (BURZAN 2002; GRAEFE 2013; KÖLLER 2006). GEISSLER (2008) uses the concept of time sovereignty to analyze new time experiences, practices and action dilemmas and how they are driven by the (economic) change in temporal structures. For her, time sovereignty is "a concept of self-understanding about work experiences and demands" (p.258). Time sovereignty in the context of work (time) is ultimately recognized as an element of a new capitalist order of justification. The starting point for this research are organizational or work-related settings, from which it is then examined how the individual (separate) areas of leisure and family are coordinated. Stubbornness and creative leeway have so far been rather underrepresented in research. [5]

In contrast, the present contribution emphasizes the handling of the inherent structure of phenomena using the example of the appropriation of (audio) texts. The focus is shifted to a time order that is only established (more or less confidently) in practice, in which people are involved in different ways; depending on whether you perceive a text aurally or visually. The concept of aesthetic proper time is used as a further background foil for an analysis of time practices in (listening) text appropriation (GAMPER & HÜHN 2014). Originally from the cultural sciences, the question is asked "how complex artefacts deal with the diversity and heterogeneity of conceptions of time" (p.11). The proposed reference to artefacts is consistent, as the theoretical and methodological problem of time is that it is a phenomenon that cannot be perceived directly. Thus it cannot "be understood as a universalistic quantity or as an abstract chronometric order" (p.10). This also means that it can only appear insofar as it is represented and can be perceived on objects. [6]

The concept of proper temporality, however, has a genuine double character: It shows up both in the listening texts and through them. So there is an aesthetic proper time in the temporalized representation processes and an aestheticized proper time in the experienced reception situation. It is only through this differentiation that it is profitable from an analytical point of view to reflect on the dimension of time in sensually conveyed, language-related modes of appropriation. This dimensioning shows to what extent (audio) texts, by means of their own time structure, provide the recipient with a space of possibility that can be used in everyday life in terms of (time) design. These possible uses can then be captured easily through interviews. Against this background, the following is a description of the specific research procedure and the evaluation practice of the interview material. [7]

The data come from the study "Hören als Praxis" (SCHULZ 2018), in which language-related, sensual methods of appropriation were researched. For this purpose, various media-induced listening modes were reconstructed in order to find out something about how people interpretively relate to their own sensuality. In addition to the question of the production of one's own sensory performance, the question of different temporalities also played a central role. [8th]

2.1 Methodical approach

In the period from November 2011 to October 2012, the interviewees were recruited using a short questionnaire both offline via notices in libraries in various small and large cities in the area of ​​audio book lending and online via a call to Audible (a download platform for audio books). In this way, a heterogeneous study sample was formed from people who are principally court-affine and who acquire different variants of (listening) texts in different (life) situations. The sample was formed on the one hand according to the logic of maximum structural variation (KELLE & KLUGE 2010), on the other hand through a successive further development of the sample structure in the sense of the grounded theory methodology according to GLASER and STRAUSS (2005 [1967]). In addition to the regional selection according to large and small towns, common ascriptive structural categories were taken into account when selecting the interviewees at the beginning of the sampling process in order to reflect the heterogeneity of the field. The sex was largely balanced (7 out of 17 of the respondents were male), and the year of birth covers a fairly broad spectrum with cohorts from 1950 to 1988. Great diversity has also been included in the educational qualifications. In one case, the interviewed person did not have a degree, while there were a number of academics as well as secondary school students with various professional qualifications (IT specialist, bookseller or gas fitter). At the same time, pre-determinations based on the logic of representation through the theoretically set structural categories should be avoided. Therefore, based on theoretical sampling (GLASER & STRAUSS 2005 [1967]), in addition to the focus on the content preferences, the acquisition practices and the procurement of the hearing material after five conducted and evaluated interviews, two further criteria were added for the selection: In addition to professional very mobile people (commuters or field workers), the affinity to (new) media technologies was taken into account. This was also reflected in the online recruitment that was then started. [9]

In addition to audio books and radio plays, the interviews also always dealt with the traditional reading of written texts. In order to ensure a mix in the orientations, the frequency of reading or listening to texts was asked in advance in the short questionnaire. [10]

17 semi-narrative interviews (HELFFERICH 2011; KRUSE 2014) were evaluated. The decision to use this survey method was made for practical reasons. It is likely to be difficult to investigate time practices achieved by means of ethnographic observations via listening texts, since these are incidentally integrated into everyday life and there are no fixed locations for them (in contrast to other objects of investigation). Partial narrative interviews are also suitable due to their interlinking of structuring and focus / openness for heterogeneous samples, as this enables good comparability of several interview cases. [11]

Already in the guideline (see appendix) there were definitions in which the relevance of the current topic appeared. Not only was asked about the duration of the preferred listening texts themselves, the selected listening situations, their interruptions (avoided if possible) and the question of the feeling of lack of time in everyday life also came into the focus of every interview. [12]

2.2 Reconstructive interview evaluation: agency analysis and the time dimension

In order to evaluate the interviews, the integrative basic procedure (KRUSE 2014) was used, with which individual linguistically written phenomena can be viewed separately. The core of the intended methodological sensitization for linguistic-communicative phenomena is the paradigm shift from what to how. The subject through which time could be explored in the project presented here were therefore the practices of verbalization. The agency analysis is well suited for a reconstruction of temporalities (implicitly) negotiated in the interview, as it helps to recognize in the verbalization how people relate to the - given or specially created - temporality of the (listening) text through their appropriation practices Set ratio. Because people are themselves involved in different temporalities; on the one hand in the intrinsic temporality of the listening texts, but also in the temporality of the reception itself, brought about by the appropriation. Different influences can be differentiated: One can ask who structures the reception situation - the text or the interviewee. This makes it clear to what extent there is control over the flow of text, i.e. where the agency is in the context of a time management. [13]

An agency analysis specifically asks "who does / can do what with whom and in what way, whose effect can be attributed to whom (the individual, society, anonymous powers, etc.)" (HELFFERICH 2012, p.9) . It is therefore central to an agency analysis to find out what "is in the power of the individual" (loc. Cit.), Whereby it is less about facts and more about ideas. This means that it is important to clarify exactly who or what has authority to act on the interview material and by carefully examining the linguistic formulations (KRUSE 2014). [14]

The aim of using this heuristic evaluation instrument was to record the various references to the various levels of temporality. Such hints are given, for example, by the "grammatical modes of activity or suffering ('I have ...' or 'I became ...'), auxiliary verbs such as 'must', 'want' or verbs such as 'try'" (HELFFERICH 2012, p.12). Against this background, formulations that are made in the third person or in which no person at all appears as an actively acting or shaping part of a situation also appear interesting. An agency analysis can be used to discover the subjectively perceived and / or constructed factors that contribute to an event, sensation or situation. The diverse social and subjective ideas of one's own (non-) participation can be revealed in a differentiated way. As will be shown below, the agency analysis thus forms an insightful basis for researching the production and experience of temporalities. [15]

3. Constructions of time as interactions between phenomenon and interpretation

As obvious as the relevance of the question of time in the acquisition of listening texts, it has so far not been discussed in the case of optical reading. This means that the dimension of time has not been considered separately in research on reading theory. Johannes LEHMANN (2012) emphasizes the change from writing to (silent) sound as well as the parallel generation of sense and meaning in the optical deciphering of text, but the constitutive aspect of time remains unconsidered.This also applies after the comparison with audio books and a new differentiation in which he states that the contrast "is not one of the visuality of reading and the acoustic of hearing, but that of non-articulated and articulated voice as well as one's own and a strange voice "(p.5). The decisive factor is therefore whether the process of detuning is undertaken by the subject who has appropriated the text or whether it is merely perceived as the finished result of an external, foreign detuning. A similarly striking recess can be found in Ludwig JÄGER (2014), who insists on the media difference between the symbolic constitution and the differences in sensuality in (audio) texts. Claus WEIMAR (1999), who makes a significant contribution to the conceptual clarification of reading practice, also speaks of a position of governor of the foreign sense of the text when deciphering the text, but does not reflect the moment of time direction that resonates in this substitution. The focus is on the relevance of an inner voice for understanding the text, but its temporal structure remains underdetermined. The impression thus arises that literary-oriented research is more interested in the connection between voice and meaning than in questions of time. Against the background of the contrasting film of auditory ways of appropriating text, the latter emerges all the more decisively. In the following sections I will show how phenomena (not) endowed with proper temporality (here listening texts in contrast to scriptural texts) relate to other aspects of appropriation and how aestheticized experiences of time are produced in the process. [16]

3.1 Surrender or control: the question of timing

The first following excerpts from the interview are intended to illustrate the extent to which temporalities are related to subjective modes of interpretation. They illustrate the field of tension and thus follow the logic of maximum contrasting. [17]

Inspired by the question of the comparison between reading a book and listening to audio books, Kerstin Klaasen, a cultural scientist who works in the PR department of a museum and who only receives audio texts while driving, expresses the feeling of more intense perception when reading scriptural texts. In response to a request for more specific information, it provides the following:

"yes, that is my IMPRESSION to READ that book, it is more intense, [mhm] maybe because I can? determine my own rhythm? [mhm mhm] can be? So the SPEED and especially with more complex books uh, it'll come_ Yeah in front of ME at least that I then also REPEAT a passport, or again n two three chapters FRONT [mhm] READ to: Establish a connectivity that CAN of course be so bad with audio books. [okay] and because they are also in a relative monoCHROME rhythm run, [mhm] uh (-) ä: I often don't manage to perceive the e uh this STORY or the CONTENT in such a way [yes] (-) so d- quite often so often not so LINKS DEGREE with such more complex texts, I personally find it difficult. [Mhm] and I FIND that after reading a book I MAY ALSO because it goes much SLOWLY? [Mhm] and is more TIME-intensive, so [yes] umm that I do the ge better internalized the story or that it TOUCH me better or [aha] so "(Kerstin Klaasen).1) [18]

The option given when reading is named, being able to determine what is expressed in an active formulation using one's own text-deciphering rhythm. You have to deal with the question of subjective agency and control over the flow of text appropriation (time direction). It seems as if the inability to influence the reading tempo in the audio book (the monochrome rhythm) prevents the creation of links within the story and thus prevents the content from being adequately perceived. In contrast, there is a practice of appropriating leafing through books, through which, by means of uncomplicated jumping back and forth, a connection to previous aspects can be easily established. The central goal of successfully internalizing a story that is able to touch you personally is then added to reading as a more time-consuming practice. [19]

The practice of self-reading is used as a reference for the auditory perception of texts and the dimension of intrinsic structure of an audio text is set as a mark of difference. Another example from the data corpus shows that such a (construction of) interpretation and sensation is not self-evident and is by no means always presented in this way. This is where a working mother, who works as a bank clerk, has her say. The question asked by the interviewer (hereinafter abbreviated to "I"), which is now presented, relates to a previous passage in which the interviewed person described what it means for their own experience to get a certain exciting passage from a horror -Thriller to have acquired once through reading and another time through the vocal staging of an audio book:

I: "hm = hm hm = hm (2.0) what did you find different or better than you just said?"


A reading situation - not in the car - in which the text is technically reproduced offers its own scope for appropriation. The eyes can be closed, which enables a better concentration on the vocal staging of the text and the resulting images. This is formulated in a passive agency construction (read aloud and images that emerge). In contrast to the previous example, in which the focus was on the criticism of the monochrome rhythm of the speaking performance, here the auditory appropriation is presented as one in which the listener is obliged to perceive every single word via the unchangeable vocal staging of the text. The no longer given own choice of a temporal structure of the text flow in the sense of the individual determination of the pace of text appropriation is interpreted as an advantage, but the perception of the content is perceived as intense can only arise on this basis. Thus, the contrary feeling of intense text perception appears as an effect of the desired or established subjective relationship to the text and to its internally and externally given temporalities themselves. [21]

This decisive contrast is not about the question of which is the truer, more conclusive or more widespread interpretation and evaluation of what happened and the quality of auditively appropriated texts. Only the area of ​​tension that can be found empirically is to be illustrated by way of example. Another passage from the interview with Elvira Engels can show how intricate the time-configuring spaces of possibility that are achieved through appropriation practices are. If the interviewee has just praised the freedom of auditory text perception, a little later she reveals the ambivalence of the individual text perception modes in her discussions: The binding control of the body that is carried out in the initiation of reading appropriation generates the freedom that leads to a different entry to the listening mode Text experience can lead to:

I: "Can you try again to describe in more detail what it means to you to be able to touch such a book?"


What is described here exclusively with active formulations (opening a book, engaging in history) may be regarded as a devout, ritual practice. With her brief pause, she practices an expansion of the present, which creates the time space for the tense and expectant leafing through the new book. This pause is nourished by the little information that appears in bits. She takes the time for an intensive experience of the entry and for getting involved in a new story and its development. In contrast to the introduction to an audio book, the possibility of one's own time management and individual sovereignty - with which steps and stages, interruptions and mental insertions the path into the story is taken - plays a central role: the reflexive, one's own presence of the practice Assuring insert ("when I read these first lines then I think so now it is so far now you start with it") is not possible in this form with the audio book structured in its own right. Such a pause would lead away from the text presented at the same time and its vocal progression. Even if a pause button were pressed here, the feeling of a reflexive awareness that is bound to the moment would probably no longer be accessible. The flashing would have already succumbed to transitoriness. The necessary surrender to the externally determined progression of the text flow is proven by Elvira Engels' "thrown in" with a passive agency construction:

"With the audiobook, of course, all of that is omitted because I watch myself then I can just look at the cover on my mp3 player on this i-pod [hm = hm] and then there is often a voice and says many thanks for yours Buying at Ordibil and then just like the title and who reads the book and then it starts in principle [yes] and then of course this whole ceremony that I have before [yes] and then I'll just be like that thrown into history "(Elvira Engels). [23]

According to this description, the tension-laden structure of an expectation, staging and the given that iteratively connecting entry into the story, which is based on one's own initiative, falls away. Time management can no longer intervene in the flow of text that can be perceived aurally. The playing time of an audio book remains incorruptible. The listening text then simply starts without further intervention (passive agency) and unfolds in front of the listening ear. Even if there is no control for a ceremonial structure due to the structured flow of text given in time, this does not mean that the cumulative structure of an aesthetic experience in listening mode is in principle obscured. On the contrary, Elvira Engels shows through her updated interest in the audio book, wanting to find one's way into the story with time, calm and leisure, that this is just as important and possible. [24]

What atrophies with the audio book and its auditory text appropriation compared to the book is the possibility of the ritual opening ceremony, which is guided by visuality and subject to subjective timing. This builds up haptically synchronized and with a love of detail. In contrast, the static moment of scriptural signs in the audio book is transformed into a dynamic, rhythmically structured text that is characteristically in flow. The next question is how these interactions between subjective interpretation and the intrinsically qualitative structure of listening texts can offer different leeway in everyday life and how specific constellations of temporalities are configured from this. [25]

3.2 Time as an alloying practice

In the interview data, there are evident connections between subjective variants of time experience and ways of being-in-the-world specifically shaped by listening practices. Driving a car, ironing, the frequently recurring train ride, knitting or doing other housework seem to be specific opportunity structures. What they have in common is that the unpleasant, boring and annoying about them can be overlaid with the help of audio texts. This can be achieved through the already indicated shift of the control intention that takes place in the auditory mode of appropriation: While this is related to the deciphering process when reading text visually, it tends to drift out of the practice of reading when listening to audio books. To be more precise, it is shifting away from the flow of text to external, thus potentially duplicating circumstances: "Well I = umm USE the SIMPLY um to immerse yourself in an um parallel universe and um, for example, to sweeten THINGS for me that I normally find disgusting, such as for example housework (? ironing?) and things like that "(Frederike Faust). [26]

As assistant to the management, Frederike Faust is a very busy woman, for whom a high level of activity is a matter of course. This is also reflected in her leisure-time orientation, because the formulation of the intended use she has chosen clearly has an active agency construction. The latter does not aim to control the flow of text. Rather, a story that is heard in a concentrated manner can be imaginatively built into a whole parallel universe. The metaphor of immersion, however, means more than the fantasy world of the images. Spoken language comes into play with its own temporal dimension and its emerging structure. The focus on the intrinsic progress of the story potentially undermines that of the aestheticized situation, for which the audio text can be a helpful instrument. [27]

In many cases, listening practices are accompanied by an intentional and routine shift in the focus of attention. This happens not least because the aesthetic artifact of the audio text influences the subjective experience of time. A form of time direction is practiced, which is able to decouple the subjective experience from an externally set time order to which one would have to submit if the auditory content promising distraction did not exist. [28]

A practice of acoustically aestheticized alloy "such a stupid activity as ironing" over listening to audio books is able to "simply make these unloved activities more interesting", so that "you can get over it more quickly" (Elvira Engels). Insofar as the audio book acquisition accompanies the ironing activity, it is possible to get over its duration, tend to fade it out or, better still, to fade it over with relish. It is remarkable that the routine has its own dynamic: "meanwhile it is actually so that I am piling up ironed clothes so that I can actually listen for two or three hours at a time and that now [ahha] is almost fun for me ne [laughs]" (Elvira Engels). [29]

In addition to a captivating story and its own aesthetic time, the dimension of spoken language itself, which is temporally pre-structured in the auditory mode, certainly helps Ironing. The statement made by Elvira Engels in this context "so that I can make things like this more interesting" refers to a central aspect that is hidden in the background of this multi-layered setting: The formulation is supported by an active, specially initiated agency construction . This person empowers himself to transform the annoying activity of ironing on the level of subjective perception in such a way that it can be viewed as enriching. Even more - the listening situation she has arranged in this way gives her the right and the opportunity to free herself from the family's catalog of requirements: while on the one hand she fulfills obligations that benefit the family, she also devotes herself to her hobby. With such a listening practice, which can be seen as a pleasurable amalgamation with other, compulsory activities through listening to audio books, audio book appropriation can be reinterpreted as valuable personal time: a time that she has to herself or that she regains, from which her satisfaction in the Everyday life becomes deducible. Due to the encapsulation created by the "plugged in earphones" even when other family members are present, it creates a refuge in your own house, because it is accepted that "this is my part and [yes] I have that all to myself" ( Elvira Engels). [30]

These descriptions are further explicated with the adjective "natural", which additionally indicates the routine: Whenever she discards the environment acoustically with the earphones, she does so out of necessity, which she (apparently) in her mother role in a family of four committed to certain activities. She takes this as an opportunity to evade the conscious experience of this activity through the use of audio books:

"And I still have this feeling myself, so the housework itself is not pointless [yes] and for free I see what I have achieved with it, but [yes] with an audio book in my ear I still have the feeling that I have this time designed even more sensibly (laughs) [hm = hm] by not only tidying up my home or working in the garden or doing something else [...] somehow makes me happier [yes] (laughs) [yes] and more satisfied too it's not that I think so in the evening I'm already working but [hm = hm] that I think so in the evening, too, this taCH what have you done now, what could you tell now, what have you done great so for me I have to tell no one else, tell me "(Elvira Engels). [31]

In particular, the satisfaction and happiness that comes into your life as a perceived quality through the appropriation of audio books and enriches it, is a strong sign of the transformation of your own relationship to the environment and to yourself. This allows a distraction from monotonous activities, because there is no bad mood about the fact that the other family members may have to be cleaned up afterwards. The monotonous household chores, which are not valued in their performance, have their own temporality - precisely the time it takes to perform them. The concentrated focus on the audio book allows a temporary undermining of a conscious simultaneous living through of the activity, understood here as a bodily-cognitive unit. This can create the subjective impression that transforms time - and its progression - that it flies by. The subjective experience of time, aesthetically alloyed by means of the audio book, shifts in the direction of listening time and thus to the progression of the story that unfolds in front of the ear. The own time of the (housework) activity is thereby pushed back. [32]

A young IT specialist is pursuing a similar idea, for whom it seems obvious to organize audio books exclusively online at Audible. The constant availability thus achieved is also recorded in modes of appropriation. He can hardly imagine driving the bus or train without listening to an audio book, which would mean "looking STUMPF out of the far window" (Dennis Duder). The audio book appropriation becomes for him on the way a means of being able to "kill time", in which an active agency appears. Such descriptions can be found regularly among the interviewees, who have made it a habit to use audio books in the car or other means of transport. So it would be a shame not to be able to do this, for example due to forgetting the player or something similar - "That would be - yes - BORING [mhm mhm] AND I would just go wild uh time would go SLOWLY [yes] yes ? And LONG?) "(Dennis Duder). The latter formulation, on the other hand, suggests a state of being at the mercy, which is experienced as powerlessness. The lack of freedom of having to indulge in situations undisturbed over time can therefore be a reason for great dissatisfaction. This feeling is often heightened by the awareness that this does not have to be the case. At the same time, this awareness is paired with the stored knowledge of the feeling of possible serenity through the acoustic overlay, which further fuels dissatisfaction. [33]

A starting point for time-sovereign listening practices can therefore be to use the agency gained through devotion to the listening mode to avoid having to submit to the temporality of activities. But the interviews not only contain references to a dimension of time as a form of duration. Time can also be recognized in its possible quality of a limitation of options to which one can react via listening practices. [34]

3.3 Time as a scarce commodity

As shown, for Dennis Duder the dissatisfaction is based on an unfulfilled performance. In the situation described, for him it is about not being able to follow a fascinating story any further. Only then does the feeling of uncomfortably stretched time emerge, which he describes as boredom, since time slowly passes by. The focus that creates a nuisance can be quite different, as the following example illustrates: [35]

A self-employed online marketing consultant who regularly drives two to three hours by car in everyday work comments on the lack of audio books on such journeys: "Yes, because for me this is the optimal combination of time OUT for something BEAUTIFUL" (Leonie Landes ). She chooses an active agency construction by speaking of the targeted exploitation of the given time. If Dennis Duder is still in danger of going "wild" because time goes by so slowly and there is no way to escape this slow flow in a habitualized way, the starting point at Leonie Landes is the opposite: not too much time, but too little. Here the appropriation of audio books actually becomes a practice of time compression in the sense of a double your time (RÜHR 2008, p.100). Such an interest in listening is driven by the awareness that time is a scarce commodity that should be used as sensibly as possible. The dual activity of driving a car and listening to a beautiful story becomes a meaningful use of time. Failure to do this can lead to dissatisfaction. Another quote from the interview shows that time is actually explicitly interpreted as a scarce resource in the second example. When asked what role time constraints play in her everyday life, Leonie Landes answers:

"I already know that there is a shortage of time, now I don't know if it's all due to our time, it certainly plays a role, hm hm but it is also partly how MY life looks like now" (Leonie Landes ). [36]

The perceived challenge lies in shaping the day "with job children other interests [...] yes and the ebooks, for example, are NOT the right solution. Is just a different medium" (Leonie Landes). In this case, the focus is not on the intrinsic structure of an audio book, which should help to cover up unpleasant activities. The length of the car journey between two business appointments is also not criticized as unpleasant. Rather, the time space is used for a valued discussion of literature and is thus reinterpreted. The mentioned e-books are not a sensible solution because they also have to be acquired visually and without the option of accompanying activities. Leonie Landes thus refers to a need to condense time. These practices are the counterpart to the lack of time experienced in everyday life. The issue of time constraints,

"So it certainly plays in the direction of audio books, of course, because I, um, have LOTS of interest, I like to do a lot, yeah, and I do HARD to do without things, for example books, hm hm in that case and then, of course, the audio books THE solution is bad, yes "(Leonie Landes). [37]

A practice of time compression guaranteed through auditory text appropriation is explicated, which appears practicable and appealing because it can accompany other activities as an alternative to reading books. Such a way of dealing with acoustic books appears to be an asset, as it can be easily integrated into everyday life. In other cases there are indications that such practices of time compression can develop a certain momentum of their own. On this subject, Frederike Faust states that she has "IN all, a pretty fully embroidered TAG and a stressful job". She goes on to explain the importance of audio books in her everyday life:

"I'm? um pretty much in this MÜHLE, that's like a Treadmill? and um, I THINK that also keeps my STRESS level at a normal level? if I fill all of my GAPS? because then I feel like I've got mine DAY well filled out and uh (1.2) YES that is I think so uh uh YES en FILLING (1.5) of TIMES that I would otherwise consider wasted EXCEPT I would now have the feeling that I would like to lie in the garden and the THOUGHTS dangle let "(Frederike Faust). [38]

Despite the perceived stress level, there seems to be an effort to make sensible use of the smallest possible time unit. According to the description, the stress level drops "if I fill all of my GAPS" (Frederike Faust). This is rather counterintuitive - one could rather assume that stress can arise when there is a feeling of having to use all the gaps in everyday life as efficiently as possible. The feeling of not wasting any time, which is associated with a little stress, but also with satisfaction, can arise. She associates it with the idea of ​​having worked well again for a day in the "treadmill" of externally set time schedules. It could be assumed that the active power of action of filling the gap makes the difference and thus satisfaction possible here. In the same interview, there is evidence at another point of how much the combination of certain activities with the acquisition of audio books can become a habit: Sometimes "I READ a BOOK too, but I always FIND that um (2.0) actually a little bit [laughing] It's a shame because I could do something else at the same time "(Frederike Faust). [39]

A feeling of dissatisfaction arises from these thoughts. It grows out of the conviction to indulge in excessive luxury by dedicating oneself only to a singular activity such as reading. The dissatisfaction is nourished by the idea of ​​renunciation, in which Frederike Faust does not present himself as capable of action. Another consequence of the shortage of time is that listening practices create idiosyncratic time-spaces that are not necessarily compatible with the environment, which is then constituted as an outside. [40]

For the professionally very mobile gas fitter Hendrik Hummel, due to the family situation with small children at home, there is hardly any opportunity to "get involved" with audio books. Like other interviewees, he shows himself to be inventive in his practice of appropriation. The aim is to actively take free space in which he can listen in peace. Every now and then such a situation is determined by a moment that is captivating and an unwillingness to interrupt:

"I HAVE already sat in the car somehow come home from work, stand in the parking lot and then stand in the parking lot for an hour because I somehow want to hear what is going to happen right now and somehow it doesn't get to the POINT telling something Longer breathing or something like that, huh huh huh, because sometimes I’ve already called, but I saw that you drove up "(Hendrik Hummel). [41]

In this example, Hendrik Hummel feels that the speaker in the audio book does not get to the point. A passive agency construction is chosen for the narrative, in which the listener is, as it were, at the mercy of this temporally predetermined course of events. If he wants to know what happens next, he has to submit. Hearing faster is not possible - as it would be conceivable in contrast to reading. This situation can also be read as a clash of diverging orders of time: an individual time aestheticized by the situational devotion to the exciting audio book is offset by a different time order structured by family obligations and expectations. From this point of view, the idiosyncratic persistence in the parking lot, practiced for the purpose of undisturbed hearing, reveals itself as a form of time management that is subjectively perceived as obvious. This does not aim at the flow of text, but tempts to stretch the present aesthetically and encourages you to sit down. It is precisely this subjective experience of time, aestheticized via audio books, that cannot easily be inter-subjectively connected, as the call made indicates as an expression of incomprehension. An attempt may be made to restore the family synchronicity. It becomes clear to what extent the audio book is given times and spaces via appropriation practices in which it can develop its calming, relaxing and sometimes rousing to captivating-affecting quality. [42]

Finally, it is important to emphasize the analytical distinction made in the presentation. The last example could also be subordinated to the dimension of aestheticized time alloy, but is here, following the relevance of the interviewee, negotiated under the aspect of time constraints. A certain contingency thus appears in the analytical assignment, which is owed to the perspective that has been set up. For this reason, the methodological assumptions and (preliminary) considerations are briefly discussed below. [43]

4. Discussion of methodology and results

In practice-theoretical work it is one of the widespread notions that the interview method is not particularly suitable for researching practical contexts (see SCHMIDT 2012 as an example). One possibility to expand the research presented here would certainly be to add hearing diaries to be kept by the recipients or (non-) participating observations. The latter would mean researching listening practices in actu. This would likely provide more insight into body practices that accompany listening and reading. [44]

At the same time, research into the connection between time regime and body practice should certainly not be restricted to participating observations. This becomes clear in a current, historically oriented sociological study that examines the transformative effect of rock music of the 1970s (HOKLAS & SCHWETTER 2019). With a fixation on ethnographic methods, research informed by the theory of practice would be deprived of the quite significant analysis of past practical contexts. [45]

In the present case, the appropriation practices of the interviewees are domesticated by the language spoken. At the same time, it is likely to prove difficult to analyze listening situations through participatory observations as extensively as in the work presented here. A limitation would have to be made - for example to public listening practices or selected settings. Now, because of my blindness, the observational method is not so easily accessible to me. Not least because of this, there is an auto-ethnography in which I contextualize the results of the interview analysis in an extended manner (SCHULZ 2018). [46]

The interview research is criticized for trying to develop access to social phenomena by working out internal motives for action (SCHMIDT 2012). This is based on a possibly outdated, methodologically naive idea: the interview is not necessarily designed as an instrument that captures the authentic experiences of the people interviewed, let alone can grasp the reality of the research context. In my study, I understood the interview to be a complex social situation in which, by recourse to discursive knowledge, possible connective contexts of meaning are developed (DEPPERMANN 2013). Consequently, the artificiality of the interview situation does not represent a disadvantage either, since the dispositive analytical research perspective of my study - which naturally falls short in such an excerpt - was rather about exploring which practical contexts produce which realities (including one's own sensuality) and how. Since these ideas have always been entangled in social power relations, at the latest through the descriptions, the supposedly self-evident in the field of sensory performance can be reconstructed (SCHULZ 2018). The interview material reveals less the individual standpoints of the people than the rules for articulating sensual modes of reception of language-related text content that appear legitimate. [47]

As outlined above (Section 3.1), Elvira Engels would like to indulge in the flow of spoken words presented. She interprets this mode of appropriation as gain; she consciously perceives every word. She is even ready to submit to her physical activity and lets herself be tempted to sit down. Quite different with Kerstin Klaasen, who subordinates her listening practice to a given setting of the car journey. She speaks of bound time that would otherwise remain useless. In addition, the immutability of the temporally and rhythmically structured text flow is the reason for a feeling of patronizing, which is particularly important in more complex works. [48]

The special feature of auditory text appropriation becomes recognizable through the contrast: It forms a temporary and pleasurable division of a physical activity of the hands from the activity of the mind. This division is possible due to the connection, which is different between hearing and seeing, between an initiatory activity that constitutes the process of text acquisition: the eye directly controls the process of acquisition by deciphering the text. It takes on a role of leadership and control over the flow of text generated specifically in its temporality. This is shown differently with auditory appropriation: the ear follows what is acoustically presented and only connects its imaginative-creative activity of understanding the text to what is perceived. As a result, the two sensual modes of appropriation are related in different ways to the central dimension of time for reception. In the one case, the rhythm of spoken language given in listening texts is interpreted and constructed as a loss of one's own creative power in the appropriation of the text, while on the other hand exactly the opposite happens: by being physically committed to the pace and rhythm of the spoken word, it happens the empowered devotion to one's own fantasy triggered by concentrated listening and, on this basis, to an intensive text perception. [49]

Even if there seems to be an arbitrariness of sensual perception in the appropriation of novels and stories, a brief reference should be placed in the sense of a power-critical classification. Elvira Engels' openness to auditory text appropriation tips over at a very specific point - namely where it is a question of the sometimes desired control over the flow of text instead of the experience of a situation. It is a cross-case pattern: As soon as the acquisition of technical content became a topic in the interviews, all respondents preferred to read the text optically instead of hearing it. This is particularly noteworthy for those who previously talked enthusiastically about listening texts. Reference is made to the visual effect of normal reading, which is associated with a certain degree of activity, which in turn promises control. For technical reasons of the playback modalities and those of the lack of routine, however, this intensity is not practiced with the ear in the text-related discussion. Nevertheless, it is assumed that the sense of hearing is not equally suitable for acquiring knowledge, which can be criticized as an ableism aimed at the listening mode that disqualifies alternatives (practitioners) (SCHULZ 2020). From the perspective of powerful ocular centrism, listening to texts is still considered to be comparatively uncontrollably affecting and dangerous - also for the success of serious (further) educational efforts. [50]

5. Conclusion

In the present article, a reconstructive analysis was presented, which was intended to illustrate how the questions of time sovereignty and time control can be converted into an agency analysis. Using the example of the acquisition of language-based (audio) texts, it can be shown how the people who receive these media relate to different temporalities in and through their practice; but also how they sometimes generate these mediated temporalities in the sense of NEVERLA (2007) themselves. It became clear to what extent the auditory text appropriation of the audio book is able to cover other activities and their perceived duration, precisely because of their intrinsic structure. Listening practices can configure different, potentially diverging levels of temporality. An idiosyncratic paradox then emerges: Free spaces only arise through submission to the given timeliness of the audio text. Two forms of time direction then appear roughly schematically: As with optical reading, it can primarily focus on the progress of the text flow, or it configures specific ways of experiencing activities and their duration by devoting themselves to the intrinsic structure of the listening text. In the latter case, there may be an aestheticized alloy of other relationships. The creation of such a situation is then not felt to be contrary to one's own agency and is promised. [51]

From the reconstructed paradox, the idea can be derived that it can be profitable from a perspective to trace precisely such entanglements in research: The question then would be which temporalities existed - and by whom, how (co-) produced or given - temporalities for which situational ones Context can be perceived as limiting or enabling. Freedom - also when dealing with set time orders - always refers to a set of conditions, from and from which one can only be freed. [52]

Apart from deepening knowledge of mediatized time practices and their possible applications in everyday life, the results also make a contribution to more general questions of the sociology of time by taking the perspective of doing time (GERDING 2009) beyond references to the sociology of work. It is not true that the (sometimes gendered) work / leisure time order is irrelevant throughout the study; From a practical theoretical perspective in particular, however, it would be very promising to conceptually incorporate a third element into this duality: namely the temporality of phenomena or things that configures this area of ​​tension. The performative synthesis achievements in dealing with phenomena that are structured in their own right not only reveal the culturalistic moment of time, but also make clear its potential to subvert existing orders by means of subjective immunization strategies. When this (not) succeeds is and remains an open question that can only be clarified empirically. Time does not exist pre-culturally, but is only produced in self-running and order-creating actions. For their analysis, it is desirable to use traditional ethnographic observation methods. Questions that have not been taken into account here about routine prelinguistic practices and their unknown intrinsic logics as well as the constitutive materialities can then come into focus. [53]


We would like to take this opportunity to thank the editors for their always open form of communication. But the two reviewers, with their appreciative and constructive criticism, also made a very valuable contribution to perfecting the manuscript.

Appendix: Interview guidelines

The guide is available online as a PDF file.


1) The names of the interviewees are anonymizations that I have chosen. The fictitious first and last names with identical first letters came about arbitrarily. The interviews were transcribed using the GAT basic transcription system (SELTING et al. 1998). Capitalization indicates accentuation, numbers in brackets stand for pauses over a length of 1 second, underscores stand for short pauses and equal signs stand for long words.


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To the author

Dr. phil. Miklas SCHULZ has been the chair of Inclusive Education and Diversity at the University of Duisburg-Essen since the summer semester 2019. He has a doctorate in sociology, media and communication studies and works as a research assistant (postdoc) at the Institute for Special Education at the Leibniz University of Hanover (on leave). The main research areas are: media, body and cultural sociology, disability / critical blindness studies and qualitative methods of social research and dispositive analysis.


Dr. phil. Miklas Schulz

Representation of the professorship Inclusive Education and Diversity
university Duisburg-Essen
Faculty of Education, Institute of Education
Universitätsstrasse 2 I.
45127 Essen

Email: [email protected]


Schulz, Miklas (2020). The time of reading. Reconstruction of aestheticized proper times and the question of time direction in (listening) text appropriation [53 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Social Research / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21 (2), Art. 1,