Synchronicity: Time, Technicians, Instruments and Invisible Repair

J.L.M. Bruyninckx*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Web of Science)


Sociological studies of work and time have argued that academic temporalities are increasingly rationalized and rendered accountable, resulting in a divergence of planned and experienced time in academic work. Shared research facilities that provide platform technologies to large user pools are no exception to this, as its administrations seek to increase profitability of limited instrument time. Based on an ethnographic study of three facilities at an American university, this article examines how diverging rhythms are enacted in organizational schedules and instrument work and kept aligned on the laboratory floor. Drawing insights from time studies and repair sociology, I argue that although technologies of time accounting provide powerful templates for action, they become effective only through ongoing “synchronization” work. Synchronization calls attention to discrete techniques and work practices, such as the adjustment of users’ bodies, user expectations or work processes, that technical staff draw upon to resolve slippages between organizational rhythms and the temporal realities of data collection. This analysis suggests that technicians’ local and embodied (but also invisible) practices not only affect their own professional roles but also organizational stability and productivity in time-sensitive environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-847
Number of pages26
JournalScience Technology & Human Values
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • academic disciplines and traditions
  • representation
  • accounting practices
  • politics
  • power
  • governance
  • WORK

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