Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blog 3: More on Screens and Prisons

I'd like to think more deeply about the screen as a device of imprisonment and freedom, as Tristan, Daniel, and several others discuss in their posts for this week. Manovich contends that such imprisonment is related to the immobility of the viewer in looking at the screen. As Professor Chun points out, this process of imprisonment is related to the act of driving a car. The driver remains immobile, fixed in the prison of the automobile, while the images around him are constantly in flux.

Unlike Tristan and Daniel, I do not want to push back on whether screens are a form of 'imprisonment' or of freedom, but rather think more through how imprisonment might operate in the context of the screen. In class today we discussed the 'crackberry'/blackberry as a screen that users can't free themselves from, thereby blurring the distinction between work and the personal. In this case, the screen imprisons not merely by fixing the user's gaze and attention (as Tristan describes), but by producing an unquenchable desire in the user to come back to the prison of the blackberry. As in the case of Google, the blackberry then operates as a screen that we can navigate away from (by putting in our pocket), but from which we cannot escape (because desire keeps pulling us back in).

I view Facebook (and Chat Roulette for that matter) as operating in a similar way. Facebook imprisons not just through the physical immobility it necessitates, but also through the online community it creates, which the user constantly wants to get back to. The danger associated with such imprisonment, then, is not just that the user is couched next to a screen, in some way physically controlled. Rather, it has to do with the imprisonment of the mind within the world of the screen, rather than of the real.

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