Vivian Sobchack

From Screen-Scape to Screen-Sphere: A Meditation in Medias Res

This presentation argues that the digitization, proliferation, and mobility of contemporary screens has transformed what was once a "screen-scape" to an all-encompassing "screen-sphere"—a new topologically-bounded, systemically-organized, and n-dimensional domain that has not only radically changed our lifeworld but also our ontological existence, behavior, and spatiotemporal orientation within it. My argument proceeds in three parts that correspond to the three stages of phenomenological method: description, reduction (or thematization), and interpretation. The first, "A 'Cartoon' Phenomenology: Experiencing Screens, or Being (Differently) in the World" draws (quite literally) on recent cartoons and other popular and scholarly discourses about our existential engagements with the screens that surround us. The second, "A 'Machinic' Phenomenology: Screens and the Emergence of a Complex System," explores the observable relations among screens as constituting an "autonomous" or "autopoietic" system. Finally, "Phenomenological Biotechnics: Where and What are We Now?, or Living With/In the Screen-Sphere" speculates on the spatial structure of the "screen-sphere" and its effects on our position and function in relation to it.

Vivian Sobchack


Vivian Sobchack was the first woman elected President of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and is on the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute. Her essays have appeared in journals such as Quarterly Review of Film and VideoFilm Commentcamera obscureFilm Quarterly and Representations. Her books include Screening Space: The American Science Fiction FilmThe Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience; and Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture, and she has edited two anthologies: Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change; and The Persistence of History: Cinema, Television, and the Modern Event. Her research interests are eclectic: American film genres, philosophy and film theory, history and phenomenology of perception, historiography and cultural studies.