It’s Written All Over Your Screen

So this isn’t my most thoughtful or deep post, but I’d like to backtrack a moment to possibly the number one concern I hear from people who are wary about digital texts: reading off of a screen. And it really can be uncomfortable! We’ve all experienced tired eyes and headaches after staring at our laptops too long, and the glare from the sun that forces you inside if you need to use your computer. According to one article, “the issue has become so prevalent in today’s work environment that the condition has been officially labelled by the American Optometric Association as ‘Computer Vision Syndrome.'”

I would also argue that there’s a more philosophical relevance to this concern; the screen is the face of the computer. The field of interaction between user and machine is primarily located on the screen (although the tactile experience of typing is of course also relevant, but perhaps less complained about). So, if this interaction is to be comfortable and integrated into every-day life, the screen needs to be user-friendly.

Let’s see what’s being done to improve this experience, focusing on laptop computers (of course ebook tools such as Nook and Kindle have done more on this front, but these aren’t the devices people are using for hours on end).

Laptops used to be black and white, prone to blurry screens and ghost images. But, by about 1991 color LCD screens came into use, which improved visual quality as well as cost for consumers. Nowadays of course, laptop screens are at a whole new level, with the emphasis

The MacBook Pro Retina Display...does seem to reduce glare!
The MacBook Pro Retina Display…does seem to reduce glare!

being on resolution and the implementation of touch screens. MacBook has a new “retina display” that’s supposed to have incredibly high resolution (the MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display is literally advertised as “eye-popping”). However, there seems to be little to no push for these screens to be easy on the eyes. Improvements generally focus on bright color and high definition, but that “brighter and bolder” sort of thinking would intuitively seem to me to make things worse.

In fact, there are articles dotting the web about how to avoid eye-strain yourself. These range from buying computer glasses to sitting up straighter to taking breaks. Clearly this is a common concern. However, the physical screens themselves are not being made more ergonomic and healthy by engineers. I could only find one company that is on a mission to reduce eye fatigue

So my mom WAS right when she said I should sit up straight....
So my mom WAS right when she said I should sit up straight….

through engineering better screens. They are concerned with using direct current to reduce perceived flicker. However, this is not a mainstream laptop producer truly implementing revolutionary technology into their products.

Does anyone else know more about this, or have special tips/screen appliances they use to reduce eye-strain?

2 comments

  1. There is an app called f.lux that helps you sleep because it tricks your computer into moving the brightness of your screen throughout the day. This could also theoretically help with eye strain as you are 1. not on your computer as much as you now feel tired and 2. the variation throughout the day could be something that you need to do but just aren’t doing already.
    according to their website, “f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again”.
    https://justgetflux.com/

    • Emma Wang says:

      I use f.lux, though not to help me sleep better. It basically changes the color of your screen to have a sort of beige-ish glow instead of the bright blue color and it attunes itself to the sun so that at each sunrise or sunset your screen will change color. There is also an option to disable the screen change for an hour if you’re working on something color-sensitive. I’m on my laptop a lot, and I’ve found that having f.lux installed helps my eyes feel better after such a long time online because it softens the light from the screen without having to lower the brightness. My favorite part is watching my screen change color!

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