[-empyre-] Pervasive media

Sean Cubitt sean.cubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Sun Jul 8 21:19:21 EST 2012

Hi Martin, and thanks to Richard for building a bit of a bridge across

I'm with Ian in wanting to hang on to materiality. But equally, I'm concerned as we all are with the social. So let's consider some modes of socialisation. I don’t expect our discussion to go off on issues of internet and electronic standards governance, but these are forms of the social that have a deep significance for screen/screening. They introduce (sorry) the issues of power and wealth which also slip out of discussions of the agency of end-users of equipment. Most users don't know, and if they do don't give a hoot, about the MPEG patent pool, IP v6 or HTML5 codec wars. But if Alex galloway and Eugene Thacker have even half a thesis, these are protocols and as such will make massive differences to the affordances of screens and screening, and to the societies of control we inhabit. Ie, the social is by no means other than material.

With that out of the way, let's consider physical screens as devices in use: after all, the assemblage concept includes not only hardware and software but the social arrangements in which they are produced (see above, and also consider the contexts of production in the maquiladoras/offshore plants, and the ecological consequences of materials extraction and manufacture, not to mention energy use) --- and the contexts of their consumption/use

At the crudest there's on/off, then selection of channels, then play, then content creation; and parallel to that there's individual, domestic and crowd experiences. Other features are significant: watching sport live on an urban plaza big screen is a different experience to watching recorded material, or even interacting with a creative work. If, as Richard suggests, we are going to have a skilled understanding of such experiential, social and possibly political events we need both to home in on specifics (the angle of vision provided by big-screen LED panels and the degree of illumination under daylight, plus sound of course) and situations (the wonderful sight of Indigenous Australians turning their backs on masse on a dumb politician's screen image during the Sorry Day broadcasts in Melbourne's Fed Square)

And then there is the question of how exactly we enter a particular form of content – axonometric or point perspective, Street view or map, data visualisation or text, and any specific combination of those, alongside the presence or absence of advertising and other supplements . . .  In some sense the con-text and the text are indissociable (seeing the news of the 7/7 London bombs in a crowded bar in Woolamaloo was immensely different to seeing the 9/11 attacks on a hotel TV in Northern Ireland)

This by way of saying that materiality is not exclusively about, say, how the restricted colour gamut of my laptop is boosted by using a powerful backlight, but also about the Madagascan sapphire substrates of the diodes and their unusual (and undeserved) status as conflict gems, and the fact that I am using it to participate simultaneously  in the life of the venerable dog at my feet (happy 15th birthday Zebedee) and a community of all-too-fascinating discussion.

The reason why media are such fascinating objects of study is that we are not bound to the disciplinary; and that we have in mediation the privileged avenue to understand what human beings do when they're being human (and indeed when they're being post-human)

One and a half cents worth


From: Martin Rieser <martin.rieser at gmail.com<mailto:martin.rieser at gmail.com>>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>>
Date: Sunday, 8 July 2012 07:57
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Pervasive media

Well..where to start- I think we are bogged down in the materiality and I am looking at a social changes in the nature and uses of screen (of course predicated on that materiality) -how we enter them , access them and use them in an age of pervasive and interactive media, and therefore what  concepts of the nature of content and its experience we are now constructing-I do think we are getting well off beam.


On Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 11:20 PM, Simon Biggs <simon at littlepig.org.uk<mailto:simon at littlepig.org.uk>> wrote:
What have you got in that baguette?

Sent from a mobile device, thus the brevity.

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk<mailto:simon at littlepig.org.uk>
s.biggs at ed.ac.uk<mailto:s.biggs at ed.ac.uk>

On 7 Jul 2012, at 19:10, Rob Myers <rob at robmyers.org<mailto:rob at robmyers.org>> wrote:

On 07/07/2012 03:46 PM, Ian Bogost wrote:
> On Jul 7, 2012, at 5:50 AM, Simon Biggs wrote:
>> I think the current debate, about types of screens, is off piste
>> from the original theme, which was to do with agency. Yes,
>> different types of screens will have different affects and effects.
>> But the key point was that we have moved from the more or less
>> passive screen (whether a blank surface and projector assembly or
>> an all in one CRT, plasma or LCD panel) to active and pervasive
>> screens. Screens that we interact with, that form our environment,
>> that control other devices - screens that actively mediate agency
>> and can, in some cases, act upon things without human involvement.
> But, as has been said already, those devices are not screens. They
> are, most often, computers.

Computers are significantly correlated with screens at present. Televisions are now computers (or their thralls) following the death of analog broadcast and recording. Even cinemas are transitioning to digital projection with increasing speed.

> Many of which have screens of particular
> kinds. If we're ready to simply call all those things "screens" then
> I'm not sure why we wouldn't also call them automobiles or
> architecture or sandwiches.

I'm currently watching "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" on a baguette so I see your point.

Screens serve to conceal as well as present. Think of hospital screens (or the back wall of the cinema). In Simon's comment, the screens have served to conceal the computers. What the computers conceal probably has something to do with agency.

I'm not sure screens were ever passive though. Cinema was persuasive and broadcast TV showed news and opinion.

- Rob.
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>

Martin Rieser

Professor of Digital Creativity
De Montfort University
IOCT: Faculty of Art Design and Humanities
The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH
44 +116 250 6578


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