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Interfacing the Environment: Networked Screens and the Ethics of Visual Consumption

From: Ethics & the Environment
Volume 9, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2004
pp. 65-85 | 10.1353/een.2005.0001


The screen continues to be the primary generator of visual imagery in contemporary culture, including of the natural world. This paper examines the screen as visual interface in the construction and consumption of physical environments. Screens are increasingly incorporated in our daily habits and imbricated into our lives, especially as mediating technologies are embedded into the surfaces of our physical surroundings, shaping and molding our interactions with and perceptions of those environments. As screens become increasingly portable and digitized, they further modify our relationships with environments, projecting multiple images and imagery which fracture and layer visual consumption. And as screens become ubiquitous in urban environments, they network into maps of information control and consumption. We need to fully understand these processes of screen-mediated representation and interaction in order to be able to comment on the ethics of contemporary practices of visually consuming physical environments. In particular, the paper will argue that processes of consumption and their interaction with visual interfacing technologies are not simple or straight-forward, but nevertheless pose ethical questions about the relationship between visual and material circuits of consumption.

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