Digital Time

Digital Time is my ongoing research project into how time and the temporal are critical underpinnings for the presentation and experience of popular social media platforms. Arguing that understanding and transforming the temporal is key to the operation of such platforms, the project showcases how plaforms variously privilege the new and novel, the old and forgotten as catalysts for participation, while disrupting temporality with algorithmic ordering.

The Digital Time book is under contract with NYU Press, with the manuscript due in October 2020

Can you help?

Part of this research involves the temporal prompts and interventions of digital media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. I’ve been maintaining an archive of the prompts appearing on my own profiles (see below), but obviously my experience is not the same as anyone else’s. To further develop this archive, I am asking for additional contributions: if you are prompted with temporally-relevant pushes, notifications, or messages, do you mind saving the prompt (as a screenshot or save image/video, where appropriate or available), and sending it to me — t.j.highfield AT or tim.highfield AT — along with a short note about the context/date and time of prompt? These can be for any platform, app, or device. All contributions are greatly appreciated and will be acknowledged in any relevant research outputs. You can find a selection of archival material already collected at


Related talks:

Tim Highfield (2017). ‘Socially mediated moments and memories: Now, then, and the tangled temporality of digital media’, Mediatization of Time conference, Bremen, 7-8 December 2017.

Tim Highfield (2017) ‘ICYMI, while you were away: Temporal platformed interventions in the digital everyday’. ZeMKI, University of Bremen, 6 December 2017.

Tim Highfield (2017). ‘ICYMI, while you were away: The digital intimacy of temporal platformed interventions’, Digital Intimacies symposium, Melbourne 13-15 November 2017.

Tim Highfield (2017). ‘#BlackLivesMatter to #dogsatpollingstations (but not #CrookedHillary): Platform privilege and the affective politics of hashflags’, Affective Politics symposium, Turku, Finland, 12-13 October 2017.

Kate M. Miltner and Tim Highfield (2017) ‘Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the cultural significance of the animated GIF’, Columbia University. 14 September 2017.

Tim Highfield (2017). ‘The GIF and News Coverage: Remediated, Remixed, and Reimagined’. SCMS, Chicago, 22-26 March 2017.

Tim Highfield and Kate M. Miltner (2016). ‘The Trumping of the political GIF: Visual social media for political commentary in the 2016 US Presidential election’. Crossroads, Sydney, December 2016.

Tim Highfield (2016). ‘Smashed mouths: Internet cultures and the embrace and subversion of nostalgia’. Crossroads, Sydney, December 2016.

Tim Highfield (2016). ‘The politics of info-GIF-ics: Animated maps and graphs on everyday social media’. Culture and Politics of Data Visualisation, Sheffield, October 2016.

Tim Highfield and Kate M. Miltner (2016). ‘Interrogating the reaction GIF: Making meaning by repurposing repetition’. Social Media and Society, London, July 2016.

Tim Highfield (2016). ‘The conceptual blurriness of perpetual motion: Challenges of studying looping visual social media’ (poster presentation). ICA Visual Communication preconference, Fukuoka, June 2016. [pdf available]

Tim Highfield (2016). ‘On (the) loop: The animated GIF and cultural logics of repetition’. Theorizing the Web, New York City, April 2016. [online]

Tim Highfield and Stefanie Duguay (2015). ‘“Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal”: cultural practices of repetition in visual social media’. IR16: Digital Imaginaries, Phoenix, October 2015.