The Four Practices? Challenges for an Archaeology of the Screen

By Erkki Huhtamo

Huhtamo mentioned in the first paragraph that “focus should not be only on screens as designed artifacts but also on their uses, their intermedial relations with other cultural forms and on the discourses that have enveloped them in different times and places.” It is true that the use/purpose of screen was often overlooked in the world today. People tend to focus on the content of art but often ignored the physical presence and how screen can convey so much more.

Screen Practice

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Screen includes items that everyone is familiarise with like television, computer screen, projector screen and etc. In the reading, it mentioned that screen practice include the traditional magic lantern show in the early silent cinema. We understand that there are so much more to explore in screen practices this days and to think back into the past, without the use of technology, it is still able to produce a similar effect as to our projector today.
Image result for puppet shadow theatre
Shadow Puppet Theatre
People consider a shadow show as a form of screen practice but they are not the “typical” projection of images or a screen that people would imagine it to be. However, shadow show do have the essence of screen where it convey something to people.

Peep Practice

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In the past, some image are projected while some need to be peep through. An example will be the stereoscope where you have to peep through two hole to view the image. In today’s world, we seldom see such thing anymore due to all the new technology devices. However, it also reminds me of a childhood toy I once had, which is to peep through a lens and push a button to view the different images inside.

Touch Practice

Huhtamo mentioned that screen and peep practice are something that have a physical distance from the observer to the screen while touch practice is something you can physically touch and feel it. One successful example will be a toy in the past that combines both peep and touch practice like the Kaleidoscope (万花筒,Wàn huā tǒng). While peeping into the hole, you get to see fancy visuals moving by twisting the tube.

It is interesting to see how the past and present have changed some much in terms of the idea of touch practice. In the past, the visuals is something you see but cannot touch. In contrast, now that we have things like the mobile phone, where they can physically touch the screen and “touch/move” the visuals that are displayed.

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Mobile Practice

Huhtamo breaks Mobile Practices into two variants where the first one is “the observer moves through a relatively immobile environment while observing it“. The examples that was mentioned was rather interesting where Panorama have a continuous immersive environment while Cosmorama have this discontinuous series of scene. I feel that they have one thing in common which is to lead the viewer from one point to another. In Panorama, due to its orientation be it straight or circular, there will be this leading line that leads the viewer to view in a certain direction. Similarly in Cosmorama, the setting “forced” the viewer to follow a certain path as the viewer move from one peephole to another.

The second variant is “the thing being observed and/or used moves together with the observer“, where he breaks it down to three different alternatives; the wearable device, the portable device and the vehicle mounted device.

The wearable (strapped to the body)
The portable (carried by the user)
Vehicle mounted device

He moved on to talk about how wearable devices actually affects our life and whether we should be concern about the purpose behind it. He also mentioned that if someone has a smartphone with them, how much difference does it as compared to wearing a smart watch? When it first launch, it normal for people to start questioning the use of it and does it really bring more convenience to them or its just another marketing product to earn money. Also, as it is the latest device in the market people tend to forget the real purpose behind the product but to “follow the trend”. Although he debates on the function of the product but I feel that he trying to focus more on the intrusion on privacy with screens as he start to reference it to Goggle Glasses. Having a “screen” where it is capable of recording without the knowledge of the other party will make people feel uncomfortable.

To conclude, screens have changed over the years regardless of its function, size or appearance and the use of screen increased rapidly as technology advances. Through the readings I understand that there can be so much more to screen and how more and more “new” devices are surfacing in the market. Will screen eventually lose it meaning and become the slave for being “cool” and “hip” or will screen continuous to serve its purpose and improve people life?


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