Artifact Politics

99% of us do not depend on our body’s internal clock to get us up in the morning for an 8am class. Although our circadian rhythm is very impressive in itself, it is rarely used by individuals, typical college students in particular, to wake them of their deep slumber. This is why almost all of us rely on a piece of technology to wake us up in the morning: an alarm clock. Seemingly democratic, as it is resourceful and durable, the alarm clock is relied on by many individuals (Winner).

We commend Levi Hutchins for the invention of the first mechanical alarm clock. In his attempts during the year 1787, Hutchins was able to make a clock have an alarm using mechanics, but was only capable of getting this alarm to sound at 4 o’clock in the morning (Bellis). The alarm clock has evolved greatly over the years from vintage analog, to digital and, most recently, to the cellular device.

The first main form of the alarm clock was the analog, or wind-up, which uses a basic wheel and pendulum (Brain). When the set time has arrived, a spring is released which allows a small hammer to ring two bells atop the clock, producing a loud ring, and thus, awaking the sleeper. As our technology advanced, digital clocks became the “new thing” to have. Opposed to the analog clock, a digital alarm clock simply uses an electronic time basis. This leads to the most recent version of the alarm clock: the cell phone. As one of the most popular electronics in our generation, the cell phone is typically within a foot of the owner at all times. It seemingly replaces the stuffed animals that a child sleeps with, as the majority of society sleeps with their phone on the edge of their bed or on a stand right next to them. This was thought to be negative in many ways when cell phone use escalated so rapidly. But if we think about it, we used to sleep right next to a half foot tall alarm clock and depend on it to awake us in the morning, so what is the difference? We are trusting a tiny device, whether an analog, digital, or cell phone, to get us up in time for a final exam, an interview, an important meeting, etc. We are putting the fate of many of our daily events into the “hands” of a clock or phone. While we are deep in our REM sleep dreaming of the Buckeyes beating the Ducks in the 2015 National Championship, we are completely unaware of whether or not our power has gone out and our digital clock is now turned off or our cell phone is on the dreaded 5% battery life since it is not able to charge. Now what? We wake up 45 minutes late for a final exam and the excuse of, “My alarm didn’t go off!” is not good enough. We rely on technology in so many ways simply because it seems to be necessary.

The alarm clock, just like many other things in our world today, gets abused. An example of this are those that I like to call the “Snoozers.” These are the people that set an alarm an hour before they actually will wake up and hit the snooze button ten times to get more sleep. Doing this makes it so much more likely to accidentally swipe all the way to “Off” instead of “Snooze” as we are usually only half awake at this point. We are relying on an artifact such as this to wake us up and get angry even if we are the reason that it fails to do its job.

To conclude, the alarm clock is an excellent example of how an artifact has politics and possesses too much reliance from the human race.

Bellis, Mary. “History of Clocks.” Inventors., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.

Brain, Marshall. “Inside a Wind-up Alarm Clock – HowStuffWorks.”HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.

Winner, Langdon. “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” Daedalus 109.1, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity? (1980): 121. Web.


One thought on “Artifact Politics”

  1. I thoroghly enjoyed your post. The list of “tools” man has created and now is so dependent on is enormous; but, the clock is by far one of the most necessary in my life!


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