Special Issue of Encounters: How to attend to screens?

by Malte Ziewitz

Just in case you are still looking for something to read this weekend, a Special Issue of Encounters has just been published. Edited by Brit Ross Winthereik, Peter A. Lutz, Lucy Suchman and Helen Verran, the Special Issue collects six contributions on the challenge of “Attending to Screens and Screenness”. While the object of interest (“the screen”) might seem straightforward, the authors develop a range of puzzling insights from some very interesting empirical materials. So if you can be tempted by stories about a raid on a Danish pizzeria, Californian wildfires, the Transmilenio of Bogotá, “problematic” Danish children, an energy control room, travelling researchers or online patient feedback, make sure you have a look.

My own contribution tackles the research-practical question of “How to attend to screens?” and turns on some recent themes in STS around ontology, technology and the notion of enactment. Here is the abstract:

In this paper, I explore the question of how to attend to screens. Starting from the puzzling observation that screens seem both ubiquitously present and conspicuously absent in everyday life, I find that existing studies tend to take the analytic status of screens for granted and juxtapose them with a human user to theorize the relationship between the two. In an attempt to avoid such dualisms, I turn to recent work in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and focus on how screens are being enacted in practice. However, exploring a strategy of enactment in the context of a recent ethnography of web-based patient feedback produces mixed results. Perhaps most importantly, the salience of objects is not given in enactment, but itself contingently accomplished—a process in which the role of the researcher is easily overlooked. The paper concludes that a call to attend to screens as ‘objects of interest’ may thus be better understood as an invitation to engage with people and things in situations in which the notion of ‘screens’ may (or may not) provide a useful heuristic for orienting inquiry.

Further papers by Karen Boll, Katrina Petersen, Andrés Felipe Valderrama Pineda, Helene Ratner, Antti Silvast and Jane Bjørn Vedel.

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