Maria Engberg + Jay Bolter

MOSAIC: Mobile Cinematics, 2016

Digital video, sound

Over 130 million Americans consumed video content on their phone in 2015. Over 61% of mobile phone users in Latin America view short videos daily. 40% in China say they are watching less TV because they watch video on their smartphone. Many people enjoy even feature-length films in this tiny format.  Viewers can now watch films almost anywhere, cradling the screen in their hands. It is no longer just the Kinoeye that can roam the city: now the film itself has become mobile. Mobility and intimate and tactile possession define a new relationship between film and viewer, which we call mobile cinematics.

Mobile cinematics breaks up the temporal and visual coherence of the filmic experience. You watch in shorter bursts of attention, always vaguely aware of the world around you. The phone weaves your viewing into the web of social media. You are invited to choose from among a wealth of different videos, offer your comments on the action, tweet your moment-by-moment responses. What was once an indivisible stream of images that flowed over the viewer for hours, has become a mosaic of moments, poses, gestures.

MOSAIC: mobile cinematics draws on the technique of the cultural probe devised by William Gaver and his colleagues. In short, thoroughly unscientific interviews, we probe people’s use of mobile cinematic, video, and televisual material. We identify keywords and hashtags from the interviews and also from the Twitter stream of the SCMS conference itself. These words and tags serve as search terms to retrieve the Twitter and Flickr images and texts that you see on the screen. The audio you hear are the recorded replies by subject to our cultural probe questions.

We have chosen the iconic form of the mosaic for the installation mode and for the mobile application to make visible the staccato viewing practices of mobile cinematics. Reminiscent of cultural analytics (Manovich); the mosaic of The Battle of Algiers (Marc Lafia and Fang-Yu Lin); or Jonathan Harris’s interfaces for storytelling, we have created a dynamic digital mosaic to foreground our culture’s current desire for procedurality.