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Research analyses the loss of distance from the screens

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitalisation process and socio-political isolation


An article published by a researcher at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) analyses the consequences of the increasing loss of symbolic and physical distance with the media and information technologies.

Una investigación analiza la pérdida distancia frente a las pantallas

This phenomenon, accelerated by COVID-19 and the intensive use of the Internet, is associated with a privacy that is progressively subjugated to the logic of the mass media, according to an article published in the Eu-topias journal by Pilar Carrera, associate professor at the UC3M Department of Communication and Media Studies. In parallel, there is a loss of distance from a media discourse that is presented as transparent, as a “window open to the world”, concealing the mediation process and its political, economic, and cultural implications.

For example, when we watch a reality show on television, we are aware of the fact that we are facing a process of mediation, of representation, and we feel it as something external. However, when we use Facebook or WhatsApp we have somehow lost the notion of being in front of a sort of spectacle, even though the mediation process is exactly the same. “There is a naturalisation of representation which is very dangerous, as it also involves a loss of critical distance”, says Pilar Carrera.

According to the researcher, if we examine our relationship with mass media screens and interfaces during the 20th century up to the present day, we can easily see how the trend has been a sustained and progressive reduction in physical and symbolic distance,  as well  as  an increasing sophistication in forms of control through mass media technology that have penetrated the individual’s private and intimate spaces.

“When cinema began, it was consumed in public theatres. The screen made its way into our homes (a private space) with the arrival of television. The internet is the first medium that has directly entered the intimate space. This trend has accelerated during the COVID crisis”, Pilar Carrera explained. “This pandemic has been virtually filtered through a single medium: the internet. This has produced a monumental discursive deficit because its entire narrative has reached us almost exclusively via this media".

The impact of lockdown

The lockdown brought about by COVID-19 has led to an unprecedented restriction of public freedom in countries with a long-standing democratic tradition, combined with the generalisation of legitimate and compelling digital surveillance undertaken in the name of ‘public interest’, especially through smartphones, according to this paper. “It is the perfect example of encapsulated privacy and tightly controlled media, accompanied by large, extensive and frenetic use of the internet as the only window that is ‘open to the outside world’ and the only means of contact as vicarious as it is frustrating with the other”, Pilar Carrera noted.

In a nutshell, the COVID-19 crisis has allowed us to grasp the true scope of the internet in terms of social control and engineering, after decades of the public adapting, internalising, and adopting this communication network en masse. “In this perfect storm, where two viral environments (the internet and COVID-19) have collided, the structural links between the internet and socio-political isolation have become apparent,” she concluded.


Carrera, Pilar (2020). Digital interiors. The Internet Housing Policies. Meet the Age of Confinement. EU-topías. A Journal on Interculturality, Communication, and European Studies, Vol. 19, pp. 5-18. DOI: 10.7203/eutopias.19.17870 - PDF

Version française (French version)

中文翻譯 (Chinese translation)