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Parerga of the third screen: Mobile media, place, presence

Richardson, I. and Wilken, R. (2012) Parerga of the third screen: Mobile media, place, presence. In: Wilken, R. and Goggin, G., (eds.) Mobile technology and place. Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group, New York, U.S.A, pp. 181-197.


This chapter attempts an intervention into debates about place and mobility which, as Tim Cresswell notes, tend to be 'marked by disagreements between those who see mobility and process as antagonistic to place and those who think of place as created by both internal and external mobilities and processes.' Increasingly central to, but often overlooked within, these debates are body-technology relations, especially as they involve mobile media devices. In this chapter we consider the relation between place, the built environment, embodiment and modalities of presence in the context of mobile screen media. Drawing on the work of Edward S. Casey, we explore the relation between the body and mobile screen interface, and the way that the two work in tandem to alter our everyday experiences of place and presence. To begin, we suggest that a critical interpretation of our perceptual and bodily engagement with screens can be usefully supplemented by tracing the various tropes and 'body-metaphors' that are deeply embedded in our experience of screen interfaces. In particular, this focus on the body-screen relation reveals an affinity between windows, frames and screens, their place-making effects, and the complex ways we 'turn' to them with varying degrees of attention and distraction. The significance of the window, the frame, and more recently the screen, as markers and determinants of place-and of the 'here-there relation' in Casey's terms more generally-cannot be understated. As Anne Friedberg notes, the contemporary screen has been instrumental in modifying our experience of place and (tele)presence. Yet, we would argue that particular attention needs to be paid co the specificities of our engagements with small, mobile screens (as distinct from, say, large, fixed screens). Today, our collective habits and routines include portable and handheld screens that can be carried with us, in our hands, pockets or bags, effectively mobilizing an intimate body-screen relation in a variety of different contexts. In such situations the conventional screen-window relation, and the place-making effects of the screen as 'window-on-the-world' are fundamentally unhinged and destabilized. This chapter seeks to examine critically the screen-window-frame relation in the contemporary context of mobile screen use, and it suggests how our engagement with the mobile media screen is changing our experience of place, presence, pedestrian space and the built environment.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: 2012 Taylor & Francis
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