In the last decade the screen has acquired a centrality that implies a cultural change and not only a technological innovation. This change is qualitative and marks a tipping point in the massive process of digitalization. We do not mean to the contents disseminated through the screen, but to the screen itself. The screen has to be understood as a singular phenomenon that deserves specific and differentiated attention. Today almost all the information is accessed through a screen: that of the smartphone, that of the tablet, that of the laptop, and so on. It only remains the exception, continuously decreasing, of books and printed newspapers. The change brought by the screen involves a transformation that goes beyond audiovisual products or information consumption habits. Actually, it changes the very nature of information. Screen implies connection and, increasingly, interaction, both with information (e.g hypertext) and with people who produce it (e.g. social networks).
The role of the screen is not comparable to the previous cultural changes that the print, the photography and the broadcast brought. The screen include all those changes: we read texts on a screen, we look at photos on a screen, we listen to the radio on a screen, etc. The studies of Roger Silverstone about the specific nature of the screen contributed to open a very important research line. It is intriguing that some aspects related to the phenomenon were described before being massively materialized at technical level. The metaphor of the abstract image of an intimate connection (almost physical) between the sender and the receiver is much older than the iPad or iPhone devices developed by Steve Jobs. Baudrillard and McLuhan used this image precisely to highlight its particular nature. “Unlike photography, cinema and painting, where there is an stage and a look, both the video image and the computer screen induce a kind of immersion, a umbilical relationship, a touch interaction, as McLuhand said of television” stated Braudillard in 1997 in his book Écran total.
The performative postmodern identity suffered an irreversible transmutation in the mid-2010s when the screen become the epicenter of the construction of the self, of the personal identity. Long before some communication theorists like David Bohm had warned, regarding the classical notion of dialogue, that the boundaries between hypercommunication and lack of communication were more tenuous than it seemed.
After the massive introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010 and its numerous substitutes, the screen stops being only a sender, as it was in the cinema, in the television and in the conventional computer. In any case the role of the current screen cannot be reduced to a mere sum or integration between the sender and the receiver. Neither the idea of interaction can explain the phenomenon in its full complexity. Actually the screen becomes a membrane, that is to say, something that is simultaneously used to unite and to separate. For example, a teenagers group that, despite being physically together, build their identity behind the screen of an smartphone, show to what extent this screen is something equidistant between a separation barrier and a bond of union. This new identity is no longer performative, as it does not depend on their own assertiveness and, certainly, it goes beyond the notion of virtuality.
The main feature of this transformation of the late postmodernity roots, thus, in the centrality and pervasiveness of the screen, which ceases to be a means to become a mediator. Everything emerges from the screen and merges several generations in a same technological context: the sound of the old vinyl records of our parents with the not so old sound of the compact disc; the black and white images of our grandparent’s cinema and photos with our coloured photos, private videos and DVDs, and all this with the videogames of our sons. This intergenerational confluence can produce vertigo when we look at the photographic portrayals of people born in the XVIII century, which now emerge from the screen of our devices as a ghostly apparition. Maybe they are no more than one hundred portrays, but the digitalization of those old daguerreotypes and their appearance in our screen has something of a numinous or supernatural manifestation.
The consequences of these and other qualitative changes are still difficult to foresee. They affect so diverse fields as: cultural industries and their products, traditional pedagogical approaches, and archiving of non digitized information (a huge archeological site that nobody accesses). Despite many of these questions have begun manifest clearly, they can only be addressed from a prospective exercise. The next International Conference ‘Communication and Reality’ 2017 proposes the topic Reality and screen, a postmodern mirror . We invite scholars, practitioners and students to do a prospect exercise that addresses the following questions: What are the perspectives of this new stage of information society? Are we living irreversible changes or these changes can they be re-thinked (as it occurs with the return of the vinyl)? May it happen in the long term that the screen becomes the access tool to information for the poor, whereas the affluent classes will choose the printed book or the vinyl disc? It is important reaffirm that the objective is not to study the products we consume through the screen but the screen itself in its double condition of modern window and postmodern mirror.
Topics of interest for the conference may be related, but not limited, to the following:
- Social transformations originated or directly related to the centrality of the screen (social networks, virtual communities, etc.)
- Economic changes originated or directly related to the centrality of the screen (press, publishing industry, etc.)
- The interactive screen and the potential transformation in the cinema and television
- The new advertising designed especially for the interactive screen
- Journalism and the new information flows associated with the screen
- The re-definition to the notions of reality and virtuality from a philosophical perspective.
Specific call for panels
Panel 1 (In English): “Screening Religion. Authority in new frames”
Convenor: PhD. Miriam Diez and PhD. Tim Hutchings (Ramon Llull University and Stockholm University)
The screen is the new temple, the place where communities could be shaped, experiences are shared and initiatives are developed. Screens are also places where proposals are made and desires are exchanged. This panel asks how the incorporation of screens into religious practice has impacted the patterns, structures, strategies and perceptions of religious authority. What does it mean to have “religious authority”, in an age of screens? How is authority visualised and put into practice online? How is it respected, disrespected, resisted or evaded? How are those with authority in offline religious communities working to extend their authority online, and where are new authorities emerging?
Panel 2: (En castellano y catalán): “Liderazgo. ¿Las religiones fichan a influencers digitales?”
Coordinadores: Dra. Miriam Diez y Dr. Josep Lluís Micó (Ramon Llull University)
¿Están preparados los líderes espirituales y religiosos para seguir siendo un referente en internet? ¿Se vehicula este liderazgo de manera diferente en función de la pantalla virtual en la que nos encontramos? Los influencers (youtubers, bloggers…) son una amenaza real para el establishment religioso? ¿O se complementan y llegan allí dónde no alcanzan los líderes convencionales? De igual modo que industrias o sectores como el de la comunicación o la moda han captado y absorbido –y, por lo tanto, desnaturalizado— a los influencers que operaban al margen del sistema, ¿pasa lo mismo en el caso de las religiones? ¿Hay fichajes de influencers religiosos?