Conceptualization of Time

The conceptualization of time in the interdisciplinary study of climate change

It is in the current practice of scientists that the history of the earth, life and humanity is written, in a retrospective exploration that has implications for the future. This project explored the relationship between scientific practices and the conceptualization of time in the interdisciplinary study of climate change.

Drawing on previous work with archaeologists, regarding the relationship that exists between experience and conceptualization in the stratigraphic understanding of time, the project compared how change is understood in science.

The main hypothesis looked at the way scientists thought about the change and its effect upon key indicators, such as fragility, adaptation and resilience, which depended upon their experience in carrying out their practices and in communicating with one another in the course of them. Scientific concepts of time are grounded on disciplinary presuppositions about the nature of time, which are not independent of the material conditions in which different scientific practices evolve.

To test this hypothesis, the practices and collaborations of geoscientists, biologists and archaeologists in their joint attempts to study climate change were followed and compared. This ethnographic material was complemented by an analysis of the historical development of time concepts in the disciplines studied, from their consolidation as modern sciences, mainly throughout the 19th century, up to the present.

It was expected that the comparison of these different forms of practices would contribute to the growing interest in climate change in anthropology, the vast literature on the conceptualization of time in and outside science, as well as the understanding of knowledge production, interdisciplinarity and the ethnographic study of science.