May 25, 2020

A world without screens: utopian or dystopian? | Trends

Ray Bradbury imagined a dystopian scenario in the middle of the last century in which there were no books; a society of citizens abducted by the screens. It was in his work Fahrenheit 451. Could we imagine today a world without screens? And such a scenario, would it look like utopian or dystopian?

The movie screen was in a place, where you had to go. The television screen was a piece of furniture that had to be given a place in the home. The personal computer must be placed in a place (on a table, our knees, on the floor …). And finally, the small screen of the mobile phone should be held with our hands. A century has passed in which the world confined and exposed on the screen has been approaching us until we touch. At all these distances the screen remains and multiplies today, hence we can say that, although it has reached such closeness, it envelops us.

His omnipresence disturbs modes and places of communication. Very especially those of the spoken word. The classroom, the meeting room, are spaces where this difficulty for the spoken word is manifested very clearly. And it is that when the group of people is reduced an intense mode of oral communication can be given in which the look is the arch of the word that is supported by two people who look at each other. But if there is a screen, that of the laptop, the gaze of the listener is diverted towards it and the destination of the speaker is lost, without destiny. Because the screen is not the page of a notebook, where to look back to make what is heard in strokes, but a window.

There is another screen, although invisible, that stands between the speaker and the listener. It feels especially when the speaker is in front of other people, as in a traditional classroom, even enhanced this position with a platform. What happens then is the result of a constant influence of the television screen on our reception: unconsciously, the listener in a room interprets that whoever is speaking does it framed on a screen and, therefore, behind, on the other side, as it is the announcer of an informative, who looks at the camera, but does not see us, so our composure and attention is not necessary. Our gestures do not leave our private premises, we can get up, sit as we want, do something else, talk, without disturbing the speech. It would be a major surprise to stop and get our attention for our behavior. So we continue to be viewers when we attend places where communication is mainly based on the spoken word and the crossing of eyes.

And there is still a third screen in this small space, in which all attendees can see and see each other. It is placed by the speaker himself, who accepts since those arcs of the gaze to support the word have collapsed. A large screen next to it where you project images and text, as a resource for what you are saying by word. Try to attract your gaze to your screen, to rescue and keep as much attention as possible, although with a voice in off.

In this world pantallized and, therefore, affected earlier forms of communication, such as the one we have just observed, it is difficult to imagine an environment without screens. Perhaps if we complete the process of approximation of the screen, from that of the cinema to which we hold in the hand, with another advance that puts it so close to our eyes that, like any other small object, it is not perceived. Glasses or, closer, some contact lenses, or for a future another deeper form of incorporation, blur mediation and, more importantly, spill the content now confined and framed on a screen. It is the promise of an augmented reality that allows the virtual to find its place among our objects or present itself over them without hiding them.

We do not know if this possible scenario without screens, without the captive gaze of the attraction of a small mirror, would allow the recovery and reinterpretation of the spoken word and its places, or perhaps we would find other forms and spaces for orality.

Antonio Rodríguez de las Heras He is Professor Carlos III University of Madrid

Life in digital It is an imagined scenario that serves for reflection, it is not a prediction. For him move the alephites, prosthetic beings, in continuous connection with the digital Aleph, since the Network is a phenomenal contraction of space and time, like the Borgian Aleph, and not a mesh.

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