Fourth Screens

sam 1In contemporary media, screen technology is proving itself to be an enduring and critical piece of communications and media studies. The fourth screen has been recognized as a more accessible compilation of each of the earlier screening technologies. Therefore, to fully explain fourth screens, we must begin by identifying first, second, and third screens.

The very first screen technology that humans were exposed to, sometimes called “The Silver Screen”, was accessible in movie theaters. The moving picture was a revolutionary phenomena that provided teens and adults with a new recreational activity. Moving into individual homes, the television transformed the concept of media. Televisions transported “The Silver Screen” to living rooms across America. The TV made it possible for companies to market their brand outside of their storefront; opening a whole new market of at-home advertising and simultaneously redefining the term ‘mass media’. Next, computers gave us access to the Internet, making an entire new world of information available to the average person (Castillo-Pomeda, 2016, p.1). The sort of anonymous connectedness that the internet allows users is uniquely interesting, catalyzing globalization to an ultimate realm.

sam 2Today, fourth screen technologies, such as mobile phones, tablets, iPads, Kindles, Smartphones, and mobile gaming devices have added another dimension to all of this. These mobile devices combine first, second, and third screens into one, unexpectedly smaller device. Fourth screens are distinguishable from earlier screen devices because of both their mobility and their accessibility. Smartphones and tablets are normally very thin and lightweight – something that is very easy to carry with you everywhere. Additionally, these devices provide every screening service in one – movie and television streaming, internet access, mobile applications, video and photography production (Castillo-Pomeda, 2016, p. 1-5). This added connectivity forms a new social culture, coined by Stephen Groening as, “connected isolation” (2008, p.1).

This transformation, Groening believes, from “the spread of film culture from the nickelodeon, to the fairground attraction and road show, to the movie palace, into the home and now in the palm of our hands indicates a changing relationship between individual and community” (Groening 2008, p. 2). He is identifying the way in which these fourth screen mobile technologies enable us to have access to every resource we need without having many social interactions. Having this surplus of resources at our fingertips allows us to multitask, performing two or three tasks at once.  This split attention only further disconnects us from the world beyond our screens. Castillo-Pomeda also highlights this change of atmosphere when he says, “…we have been assimilating  this change that affects both our private life and our professional work.

Changes in consumer habits are being produced, that cause a revolution in the ways and in the actual narrative of audiovisual content in which the user can participate. Consumption and creation of information through the Smartphone and creativity at the service of new forms of mobile advertising…” (2016, p. 2). This, is the key to fourth screens: interaction. Coupled with the mobility and accessibility that fourth screens provide, it also presents the user with an interactive, personal experience, giving consumers no reason to go without their fourth screen.


Castillo-Pomeda, J. M. (2016). CONNECTED. THE FOURTH SCREEN AS EPICENTER OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS. Revista De Comunicación De La SEECI, (40), 1-17.

Groening, Stephen. (2008). Connected Isolation: Screens, Mobility, and Globalized Media Culture. Retrieved from University of Minnesota, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. (3338944)

Image Attribution: “iPad Tablet Tech Photograph” by FancyCrave1 licensed under CC BY 2.0; “3D World Smartphone Image” by FunkyFocus licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Written by Samantha Huffmaster, 2017