The idea that time equals money has been around for centuries. Frederick Taylor first popularized the theory of scientific management at the turn of the 20th century. “Taylorism” is what his theory came to be known as and it has been used as the primary model for our capitalistic society. Taylorism uses time as its main indicator of efficiency and since its implementation into our society, we as consumers have become obsessed over it.
As one walks down North Main Street in Columbia, South Carolina, one cannot help but notice the various institutions and avenues of consumption that are available. There are various banking institutions, restaurants and retail stores that we all are aware of. However, one avenue of consumption that is often overlooked is the consumption of time in relation to the space we are in. When one parks their car on the busy North Main Street they are charged a standard rate for their time based on the time of day via the parking meter. As we consume in these stores and businesses we are also consuming and participating in a mode of surveillance. We consume and participate not just through the surveillance of cameras but also, through the physical presence of the “meter maid.” They become the enforcers of time. They are the all knowing, constant viewers and trackers of time.
(1st photograph, Meter Maid checking the time on the meter. 2nd photograph, Cameras are being installed on N. Main Street)
The physical dimensions of North Main Street make it easy for our movements and use of time to be tracked. As Michel Focault mentions in his “Eye of Power”, “a whole history remains to be written of spaces- which would at the same time be the history of powers.” (Focault, 149). Any space that we take up today is measured in the form of money. The places we live and the places we consume are all measured in values determined by the “Eye of Power”. Space is no longer a free naturaly occurring thing. One must pay for space and the time one remains in that space. It is no different when one travels to North Main Street. We pay to be in that space, one cannot just walk around freely without being surveyed by the cameras or looked at by others in an odd manner. In today’s world, which is measured by time, one looks out of place if they are not using their time efficiently. One must always have a reason for being in a particular place and time. In this new age of constant surveillance and post 9/11 anxiety we are forced to “blend in” when we are out in public.
On our exercise of surveillance our group was constantly being looked at as “out of place”. As we slowly walked North on Main Street from the South Carolina State House, busy consumers rushed past us hurrying to be somewhere. As we took pictures and notes of the physical dimensions of the area I noticed more anxiety and confusion in others’ faces. One of these faces of anxiety and confusion was from the meter maid (See page 1 photo). As she wrote down tickets and checked the meters she noticed a few of us taking pictures of her. We were now surveying her, instead of the other way around. She was no longer overlooked but was recognized by us as a mode of surveillance. She is the keeper of time and space. She is paid by the city of Columbia to hold people accountable for the space they take up with their vehicles. However, what I find interesting is how at particular times in the day this space changes in value. It fluctuates depending on the demand from the consumers. At night the parking meters are no longer surveyed by the meter maids, most businesses on Main Street are close and the demand for that space becomes less valuable. The value of our “rented space” goes down in price and the idea of space becomes a natural occurring thing once again. To understand why Main Street is so highly surveyed one must understand the history of Main Street and the new revival process that has been occurring over the past few decades.
(North Main Street 1903) Source: Main Street 1903-1904. Richland County Public Library.
After the civil war reconstruction of Main Street began; many new businesses emerged on Main Street and began to stimulate the dilapidated economy. From photographs between 1903 and 1913 we see a change in the overall structure of Main Street. Taller brick buildings are now emerging along with the trolley system they had in place before 1910. Roads are also starting to be more definite in these photographs. Advancements on Main Street can be seen more drastically in a 1918 photograph. This photograph shows Main Street full of automobiles and shows a skyscraper on that very street.
In the early 1900s Main Street became a hub for commerce and war funding. Parades were often held on Main Street for those serving in the military. During this time however, Main Street and the surrounding areas were still very segregated. Most businesses located on Main Street were “whites only” businesses; while Washington Street became known as the African American neighborhood where they lived and set up businesses.
In recent decades a mass revival like this one has begun to take place on Main Street and in the Vista area. Department and specialty stores that were once on Main Street have begun to be replaced by big businesses like Wells Fargo and other banks. Main Street has become more consumer-based with huge corporate entities. What was once neighborhood stores have been replaced with hotels and new expensive, luxury living spaces like the Hub and Marriot. Main Street before required little surveillance, but now with many more businesses and much more money in circulation in that area, it becomes vital that activity is surveyed. Our behaviors and actions as both consumers and workers are all centered on this idea that time equals money. The way we manage our time has been manipulated and transformed by men like Frederic Taylor. Institutions still carry on this tradition by strategically placing values on time and space. Those surveying us, like the meter maid, study our consumerism. They know where and what time to check the meters based on our behavioral patterns.
Vemer Andrzejewski, Anna. “Efficiency.” Building Power: Architecture and Surveillance in Victorian America.
Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 2008. 43-90.
Foucault, Michel. “The Eye of Power.” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. 1972-1977.
Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980. 146-165.
Main Street 1903-1904. Richland County Public Library. Image.
Main Street Shortly before 1918. Richland County Public Library. Image
Walsh’s Columbia South Carolina Directory for 1910. Charleston, S.C.: W.H. Walsh Directory Company,1910.