I found Lev Manovich’s discussion of the evolution of various forms of screens to be intriguing, especially in the way he related modern cinema and computer screens to early photographic practices. The relationship between the mobility/immobility of the spectator and the mobility/immobility of the screen is something that I would like to focus on, because I think that Manovich did not focus enough on certain aspects of the dichotomy between the two.
In my mind, the distinction of whether or not a screen is mobile is something that needs to be given much attention. Rather than simply distinguishing whether or not the screen itself is a mobile unit, I think that attention needs to be given to the interplay between the screen and the item that it projects. In his discussion of photography, Manovich looks at the inherent immobility of both the “screen” (or photograph, in this case) and the subject that it captures, focusing on its portrayal of the world as static. He says that it was cinema that shattered the “petrified world” (107) of photography. Yet I would argue that photography was not as static as Manovich portrays it and that mobility within a screen should not have to be blatant to be considered present.
Early photographic exposures could require numerous hours, as Manovich points out. While Manovich claims that living things had to be immobilized in order to be captured by photography, these long exposures could actually be beneficial for capturing the essence of human movement. The blurred traces of human activity that could be seen by using a long exposure to capture a scene serve as a testament to the mobility behind the screen. As photographic practices improved, photographers could utilize short exposures to capture the decisive moment of action in any event, an idea often attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson. Thus, rather than simply immobilizing the action within the photograph, photographers called attention to the inherent mobility of human existence. The photograph/screen in itself may have been static, but it was still able to call attention to the mobility of human existence.
I don’t think Manovich is right, then, in saying that it was not until cinema that the stable world of photography was challenged. The relationship between screen and viewer should allow for the viewer’s understanding of the complex undertones of mobility that the screen may present. All forms of screens and all types of viewers have some level of both mobility and immobility, and Manovich’s discussion of the evolution of the screen did not, in my opinion, give this fact the emphasis it deserves.