In short, temporality collapsed into events. This term was coined by Venkatesh Rao. Use within NM spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of describing the texture of time tick-tocking along the flow of updates to case counts. Also: a focus on the minutiae of reference data at the expense of a larger context; useful metaphors; ants on a log; sifting through high verbosity lines of feedback returned by a console log. Further, Log Level is the smallest unit of the subjective experience of time capable of forming a coherent sense of time passing. Socio-technical changes play a role in shaping the collective experience of Log Level; what had once been checking second-hand ticking on the clock becomes checking posts in the feed.
Venkatesh Rao: So “log level” is a phrase I started using sometime about a year ago, and it popped out of the models I was building for thinking about time. So that's my current big project, thinking about multi-temporality, the idea that each of us is inhabiting a timeline of its own subjective qualities. A big piece of that is sort of a seven layer stack of thinking about time. And the log level is the lowest level of that seven layer stack. And the simplest way I can explain the log level is: your subjective, consequential version of a clock signal. So for a century, we were all kind of driven by the mechanical clock, tick-tock Greenwich Mean Time, and we were all coordinated by clocks as the basis of industrial economics. And at some point, about 20-30 years ago, clocks became more and more important to computers and robots, but less and less important to humans. And most of us stopped wearing wristwatches. Today, when we look at the time, most often we are actually just looking at a phone screen. And I started thinking about, alright, if the wristwatch or the clock is no longer the lowest level event stream that's shaping your temporal consciousness, what is it? And that's how I started thinking about the “log level” as a more general sense of what's the lowest objective level stream of events that's creating your sense of time on an ongoing basis. So it could be Twitter; Twitter is a good example, for people like me who are very online, my sense of daily time is basically the tick-tock tick-tock of tweets flowing by on my feed. So that's log level. And right now, for all of us around the world, one of the basic log level signals is the counts of [COVID-19] cases in different geographies. So here in LA, it's whatever 144 cases were positive yesterday. In Berlin, it's something else. So we have these virus time zones, each of which is driven by the case count, the fatality count, the ICU count, right. So those are clocks. Now that's log level.