Almost everything we do today somehow involves screens. It is either through watching tv, going to a movie theatre, reading the newspaper on a tablet, texting through a smartphone, making a transaction through an ATM, calculating our grocery total at the supermarket, looking up directions, and many others; it is inescapable. It is hard to think of what our lives would be like today if we did not have screens to provide us information.
Lev Manovich’s essay “The Language of New Media” discusses how the screen we view today is different from the screen viewed in earlier generations. The “classical screen” is a flat and rectangular surface that is viewed from the front, such as a painting. A painting does not move and is held in by the boundaries of its frame. Today we have something called the “dynamic screen” which can show an image changing over time such as the television, a texting chain, and any kind of video. These screens allow the user to see into another space.
The screen Manovich is referring to today is extremely intrusive. It captures our attention and causes us to become oblivious to our surroundings. Think about when you are walking to class, head down, completely involved in your text to your friend who goes to a school on the other side of the country. Did you see your history professor walk by you? How about the ant on the pavement you just stepped on? As the screen continues to evolve we as consumers are becoming more and more engaged in the virtual world portrayed by the medium than the physical world around us.
As a twenty one year old student I think back to when I was in grade school and compare it to generations today. I hand wrote my essays, read physical books, and called my friends via my family’s landline. Today most teachers REQUIRE students to type their essays, most people don’t know what to do when someone calls instead of sending a text, and we can fit an entire library on a thin, lightweight device.
Although most of these innovations are making our lives easier how do they affect our experiences? Will some never step foot into an actual library, turn the pages of a book, and get the old book smell? As an English major I have still managed not to buy a Kindle or the like but can sense the slow decline of physical books. There is more to these old forms than taking up more space and requiring some exercise to retrieve them, but the experience of putting technology away is becoming practically impossible.
Take a step back and compare the generation of the twenty-somethings to that of their parents and before. I bet we look overly wired and distracted to them, imagine what the next generations are going to look like to us. What could technology possibly replace next??