SCREENS  -  Friday May 14th, 2010

By the time you read this, I will already be on my bike. Ah, automatic scheduling.

Just a quick (hopefully not too banal) observation on the development of the computer screen: I have often had teachers and employers (admittedly less with every passing year) that have had trouble ‘reading’ screens. Print that shit out, they say. And I say, fine, it’s your time and money. As long as that is the case, otherwise I kick up a stink.

I’ve always maintained that the reason these people have been unable to read computer screens (“Jesus, Jack, stop whirling around for a minute and just stay still!”) is because they are misunderstanding the purpose of the screen. A cinema or even a photograph is just a flat surface onto which an image has been projected. It remains clearly limited by the frame, we are not supposed to think there is anything outside it. Indeed, the joy of cinema can only come when one forgets the intense action that surrounds every minute action.

Not so with the map. When we look in an A-Z we are looking at some enormous, perfect, map of the entire world. It happens to be arbitrarily cut up into frames, through which we look at a portion. With the map there is a space beyond that of the edges, a map-reality we can peer into. The computer screen operates the same way, as a membrane separating us from some other, virtual, reality. My generation sees the membrane as wholly arbitrary because we believe in the reality of the image within. In other words, we believe it has space.

The confusion of reading a membrane like a flat surface means the image appears inconsistent, blurry and dizzying. Every moment it composes itself it changes again. So when Gramps struggles with your flash Japanese DS game, riddle it out to him in these terms.

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This is just a paraphrased version of an opening paragraph to a veerry long piece I’m working on at the moment about the meaning of the architectural render. Watch this space. At least the movie is pretty cool, no?

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