Question 9 of 365: Does the screen dictate what is possible?

Question 9 of 365: Does the screen dictate what is possible?

This year may be the year of the smart phone. It may be the year of the tablet or ebook reader. It may even be the year of networked (not network) television. But all of these new gadgets have really got me pondering whether or not the physical screen is what is limiting what is possible. Are we limited to touch apps because the screen now allows us to touch? Are we limited to viewing and social apps now that our TV has the ability to view anything and be social? Are we limited to reading what is available in ePub format because now we can read books on the go?

While all of these advances are pretty amazing (I myself am most impressed with the Entourage Edge Demo), I am concerned that the new screens that we introduce into our life are only going to really be dictating to us what we should be doing with our time. To be fair, Television has long dictated that we sit there and watch, so shouldn’t a smart phone dictate that we should touch and play? I am just wondering if these new devices are creating a need for doing these things that doesn’t really exist.

What I need is to collaborate with others. I need to write. I need to provide feedback and share. I need to consume information and learn more about myself in the process. I need to play with the possibility of creating new ways to play. I need to eat well and be healthy in my choices. I need clothes, a home that is inviting and a family that loves me. I need the tactile, the emotive, and the beautiful. I need to provide for my wife and children. And, I need to sit down every once in a while.

Do the new screens do these things? Maybe.

But, if I leave it up to the screens, I may just be losing out on some of those needs. I may be missing out on what the screens don’t provide, and I am not just talking about taking time away from technology. I am a firm believer that these screens can coexist quite easily with well adjusted family life.

More importantly perhaps for answering this question is how can we make sure that these screens don’t dictate what is possible in what I write or create. How can we make sure that these screens adapt to my needs rather than simply trying to anticipate or create them?

I would like to advocate for screens that I can tear. I would like to see screens that I can crumple. I would like to see screens that I can stretch or shrink. I want screens that I can roll, screens that I can spill coffee on, screens that I can throw. Basically, until screens aren’t special any more, they will always dictate the task that we should be doing with them. Until we can throw them away and not have to worry about the money we spent or the environmental impact, we will be chained to them in the ways that have created the phrases “crackberry” or “video game addict”.

So, in a single word: Yes. The screen does dictate what is possible as well as what we do with them on a daily basis. But, it may not always be that way.


  1. To “crackberry” and “video game addict” I add “bookworm.”
    Is it the screen? Are we addicted to the screen or are we addicted to the content? If I were on a cruise and I walked into my cabin, the first thing I'd do is look out the portal. The screen is the workspace and it always will be. I'm highly confident the right people are in the right rooms trying to make the next iterations of the screen better than the ones we've got now.
    At the same time, and I think this is where your metaphor is headed, I'm quite confident that the mind's of the right people will think off the screen in the same way they've been thinking their way out of that damned box all these many years.
    es, in that it's not perfect, the screen can be a hindrance. Still, in the fact that it can let me see things that prompt me or any other creative type to work away from the screen, it's been a huge help.

  2. Yeah. I struggle with the issues of the “screen” vs. the content, but I do think that we let it limit a lot of what we can do and be. It is the same way that we cannot see out of our own situation in order to see what else is possible. I want that ability, though. I want to use the screen but not be bound by it.

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