Calendars are just a structuring mechanism

Calendar of events is a common item in most Newspapers. You can find it on the websites of most organizations also. We find it very useful in planning what with our own calendar. So the main use of the calendar of events for us seems to be populating our personal calendars using these calendars of events. This point is not missed on most event related web sites like eventful and zvents. These sites provide us mechanisms to populate our personal calendars using events listed on their sites. Why are calendars so useful and what are events and how are they really related to calendars? This is an interesting issue – that I am trying to understand. Here are some of my current thoughts on this issue.

Time is an implicit, but most dominant, factor in our life. We all know that we can create money (and all things that money can buy) but we can not create time. The best that we could do is to utilize our time in the best (most enjoyable, productive, effective) manner. But the time is just one dimensional line. What we do with time are all mapped on this time – so we can consider those as a kind of semantic activity placed over time line. To manage any thing, from data to space to property, we need some structuring. By imposing some structure we gain some handles in an otherwise contiguous unstructured space that allow us to deal with it more efficiently. Calendars evolved to provide a structure on an otherwise naturally unstructured time line. No wonder, different cultures came up with different calendars by relying on some natural periodic processes – like lunar cycles or solar cycles – to develop this structuring approach. This structure, like all natural languages, when accepted as a protocol by the society gives us a powerful communication mechanism as well as an efficient organizing mechanism. No wonder, we use calendars (and watches) to manage our most valuable resource in our life.

When people talk about events in the context of Calendar of Events, the implication is that if an event of interest to multiple people takes place and it is not synchronized then these people can not take advantage of the event. So events in COE are presented to synchronize activities of multiple people. Of course in many cases, the synchronization has to take place in terms of space also.

This suggests that COE are a powerful mechanism to synchronize activities of multiple interested parties. Personal calendars are for use by one person. As soon as we start talking about events in the context of multiple people, we need to think about mechanisms to synchronize.

This synchronization is not as easy as it appears in the first place because sometimes this synchronization may be across different times zones. Meaning the structuring mechanism for time is not uniform all across the world – it is a local mechanism. This notion of a local clock or calendar starts becoming very important as we start extending the synchronization operation across people and devices geographically distributed. Luckily, we have developed the notion of an absolute calendar and the local calendars are represented using their offsets with respect to that. To make the situation interesting, however, there are several activities that are related to natural processes and not related to the structuring mechanism imposed by us. So, if you plan an activity to take place at the sunset (or sunrise), you will have to adjust your time on daily basis because this time is not captured by our discrete (or digital) structuring mechanism. Nature does not follow our structuring mechanism; we use nature to develop convenient structure. Or is it that we are considering sunset as an event and putting it on our calendar. Well that’s what appears to be the case. I guess, once we developed a structuring mechanism – the calendar – based on natural events, now we can continue with that structure independent of the nature. Now we can in fact start putting natural events on this calendar. This is starting to get interesting.

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