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Wait a Second


Department of Art + Art History, Florida International University



Course level 

  • foundations / conceptual and multimedia approaches

  • liberal arts / humanities first-year seminar 

  • introduction to digital art or time-based media 


Conversation points for instructors

This assignment can be used to explore questions of identity and self-representation, but is presented here primarily as a strategy for students to think more carefully about the nature of a specific increment of a time (one second).


Please see the resources and guiding questions below.


The conversation may also be extended to include other art forms based on constrained forms, like the sonnet or the haiku.


Thank you to friends and colleagues from the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project and the Teaching Academy at Columbia College Chicago, with whom I discussed and collaborated on curricula and learning activities related to the concept of time.



Project Prompt / Challenge

Make a 30 second video representing one month of your life, where one second represents one day, for 30 days.


Consider the following guiding questions: 

  • What is time?

  • How is time defined globally, culturally, historically, scientifically, individually?

  • If time is non-linear, how does that affect the way one values and uses time?

  • How is time an organizing principle?

  • How do I use time? 

  • How does time use us?



Rather than creating a video of random moments, think about how to carefully frame this project.

Consider other things you could track in addition to, or instead of, your activities, such as:

  • your emotions

  • the number of footsteps you took

  • the money you spent

  • or the sounds you heard


Think about how you may be inspired by, and riff off of, the clocks and timelines we have encountered in class and for homework, such as the "Chronicled Devices" newspaper or the spice clock from the Radiolab episode (see resources below).


This timeline experiment serves as both a diary and a record of your life. Even mundane or seemingly ‘boring’ items are worth tracking and adding to your video diary.


Sample discussion questions:

  • What is compelling about compressing our lives into a condensed form?

  • How did you decide to organize your 30 day video diary?

  • How did you choose the images or moments you included in your final video?

  • What is limiting and liberating about using the one second increment?

  • What is included and left out when we document our lives in this way?

  • Describe your process. What kind of challenges did you encounter in making the finished product?

  • Did you use music or did you keep the ambient sound? How does this change the impact of the finished piece?


This assignment requires students to create a video using their phone and/or a computer. Mobile phone apps such as TikTok, Instagram, and 1 Second Every Day can facilitate the process.


Still images or scanned drawings may be used in lieu of moving images for the one-second clips.


Check with each student to make sure they have access to the technology needed to complete the assignment and they are able to export or upload their files for sharing and viewing.


This activity asks students to document 30 days of their life, so it should be introduced early in the semester. Allot one class period to view and discuss the results.

Additional Tips:

Additionally, instructors may request short written responses following the production of the videos, especially if substantial class time is spent exploring the supplemental texts and examining the 1-second video format's significance.


Online / Video Resources:

Radiolab TIME episode, WNYC Studios, 29 May 2007

What exactly is one second? | James May's Q&A (Ep 2) | Head Squeeze, BBC's Earth Lab

A Second a Day from Birth by Sam Christopher Cornwell


48 frames: May 2012 by Ricki Melchior

1 Second Every Day | TED2012 by Cesar Kuriyama, founder of the 1 Second Every Day app

In the talk above, Kuriyama refers to Stefan Sagmeister’s TED talk: “The Power of Time Off”.

Cesar Kuriyama’s website has more press about his project.

The one second diary form is used in a PSA for Save the Children UK’s “Save Syria’s Children” campaign:

The Most Shocking Second a Day Video

The Beauty of a Second is a one-second film festival hosted by Wim Wenders and the pen/watch/jewelry company Montblanc. Their website is very Flash-heavy; better to watch on Vimeo.


The 1 Second Film by Nirvan Mullick will be one second of animation with one hour of credits. A feature-length making-of documentary will play during the credits, and all profits from the finished film will be donated to charity. 


One-Second Video Apps? What The Number Of Seconds In Your Videos Says About You, by Stephanie Ellen Chan,, 13 September 2013.


Chan's short article poses questions about the structure of ultra-short mobile video apps:

“What do the seconds in a clip say about what and how much one can convey, about the process of creation, about the user themselves?” 


The Internet - Every Second on, by Neal Agarwal, is a data visualization of internet activity.


One Hour Per Second is a data visualization of YouTube activity.



Veronica Corzo-Duchardt’s Chronicled Devices, for the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL. on her website,

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