The rules for screen usage are yet to be written

Part one – Estranging ourselves from the screen. The screen has consciously occupied our group in the last few days, yet our handling of this object was mostly unconscious. Most of the time we spent in front of our screens, we followed the same pattern: we sat, turned on the camera, switched off the sound and listened to exactly one person talking. It was a way of dealing with the screen that had become a routine.  But what happens when you break out of this rhythm and become alienated from the medium? This was the experience we were all able to make, together on Wednesday evening, led by the performers Andrea Costanzo Martini and Silvia Gribaudi. At the beginning of the lesson we were picked up in our daily routine. As every day, the credo was ‘Sitting in a chair, heads in the middle of the picture, one person talking’. This initial scene developed; from scanning the space of the screen, into slowly getting up, into using the physical space as well as objects next to us and finally, just freaking out together. Many things were different from what we were used to doing with our screens, during a regular class. Participants were asked to just shout in and share strong feelings like: "I love you". Furthermore, the face was not at the centre of attention, but rather the body. We were encouraged to hold our armpits up to the camera. Things you don't share with people you've only known for three days and would normally not happen in a professional context. Reflecting on the afore described, the screen both figuratively and literally was a frame that allowed us to express ourselves artistically and to express ourselves in a way that we would probably have been inhibited in a screen-free context. Because this experience was so extremely different from what we knew, we felt pushed to the limit in some cases. We realized that the screen is a means to an end and that we actively determine how and for what we use it. It was only these deviations from normality that made us aware of how we usually utilize screens. 

Part two - Imitating offline communication? Massimo Warglien & Costanza Sartoris showed us a world that is very different from our Western ideas, regarding the use of nature to make products. In the manufacturing, resources are traditionally extracted from an ecological environment and converted into products that are then sold to consumers. In this process, nature has a passive position, while humans transform it according to their own preferences. 

The Khasi tribe in Meghalaya, India, has a completely different approach in dealing with nature, as documented by Warglien and Sartoris in ethnographic field research. Their observations are exemplified by the cultivation of the fig tree. The specific characteristics of this tree are being used to build living root bridges. This was only possible because the Khasi people saw the tree as an active member with whom to work with instead of using the material as a passive resource and transforming it according to human design. 

How can these findings be applied to screens? One could look more closely at how nature works and get inspired by those processes and what is around the observer. We think that screen usage should be monitored in order to be understood in a first step. We use the screens so often that we do not consciously perceive them. Only when something happens that seems "unnatural", we feel offended. In this sense, it is important to understand if on-screen life has to imitate off-screen life or rather construct its own rules. 

Part three - Our Progress and the way ahead. Today the last interviews and experiments were conducted. All team members have finished their research and noted down the main findings. Furthermore, first creative ideas for the presentation were collected with the help of the artist Simon Denny. In addition, first attempts to build a guiding thread were made. 

For tomorrow, it is planned to implement the ideas and to add a concise narrative to the presentation and to name interesting points that will inspire the audience to think further and reflect on the screen as an object that mediates our lives.