Screen Culture

TV was the first entertainment screen in our lives and belonged in the living room. And it stayed there for the best part of 30 years before it multiplied. Slowly, it made it’s way into the other rooms of the house. It was linear and unidirectional, but it was also the start of a new culture. A culture that would shape more than entertainment.

In less than 20 years since the birth of the graphical web, screens in all shapes and sizes have started to pop up all around us. They’ve made things simpler, easy to understand, and just made life better. So much so, that screens now permeate virtually every aspect of our lives.

I call it screen culture.

And it’s much more than TV, web browsers and smart phones. It’s every screen we see. All web enabled, all around us and consumers expect the screens to serve them without a hitch.

They’re in our pockets, they’re on our desk, the car dashboard is now a screen, on the back of airline seats, the airline check in counters, supermarket checkouts, shopping centre directories, in all retail spaces, in the back seat of taxi’s, bus shelters, community spaces. They exist where ever communication and commerce does. Every machine now has a screen. Every time we interact with technology, the interface is increasingly screen enabled. And we often attend to multiple screens concurrently.

The more we learn about the screen, the more it learns about us. The best screens can be manipulated, touched, caressed, controlled and even spoken to. It’s our job to humanize the screens so that they are culturally sensitive. They need to intuitively know what we want… and lead us to that solution. The interface has to be the instruction manual. Screen culture demands that we teach people “how”, while they interface. That the learning, and the solving, happen simultaneously. The screens need to serve us. We must be able to navigate the tight spaces of the small screen, if we can do this, then conversion to the big is easy.

This can only happen when we design as humans, not technologists.



  1. Gus Johnston · March 29, 2011

    When I was in Grade 3 my mum bought me a ruler with a screen in it. Popularity ensued.

    Do I really need a screen built into my fridge? I don’t know, but it’s looks awesome. People stand around it like a camp fire and marvel at its glow, “The best thing about this screen..” I remind people, “It also keeps my beer cold.”

    For all their functionality, sometimes screens do just look cool.

    But, the technology is sometimes just a smoke screen, as it were.

    I think we need less screens in our lives and more windows.

    • Steve Sammartino · March 29, 2011

      Agree. Sometimes we are so busy enabling the technology, we forget where it might lead us… just like the Atomic bomb. Some quotations from the scientists behind the Manhattan Project:

      ‘Now we’re all sons of bitches.’
      ‘If only I had known, I should have become a watch maker.’
      ‘I am become death, The Shatterer of Worlds.’


  2. Sam Sabey · March 29, 2011

    Screen Culture lies at the heart of the mindspammer.

    • Steve Sammartino · March 29, 2011

      Mate, that requires further explanation for sure. Care to elaborate?


      • Sam Sabey · March 29, 2011


        Mindspamming is an exploitation of screen culture, using the screens in airports, plane seats, train stations, trams, city corners and even our twitter clients now to re-program our brains to consumption.

        Often the most mindspam is seen where people are captive…

        I wrote this little post about a month or so ago in the exploit:


  3. Pingback: 2 minutes of Screen Culture « Start Up Blog

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