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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. The development of large-scale screens in public places parallels the emergence of handheld screen devices (phones, tablets, MP3 players, games consoles), yet they seem to pull in opposite social directions: toward mass social participation and spectacle on one side, toward intimate, private experience and one-to-one communication on the other. Increasing commercialization of both types of screen, and the increasing technical standardization of screens in general, indicate a subordination of screen aesthetics to the extraction of wealth and to the extension of control. This essay analyzes the political economy of contemporary screens as ground for an aesthetic that, while praising innovation, sacrifices the virtuality of screen technology—its capacity to become other. Drawing on research into transnational public screen space, it concludes optimistically with an account of possibilities emerging from the contradictory architecture of these forms of screen culture.

Keywords: public, mobile, wireless, advertising, virtual, innovation, political economy, aesthetics

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