Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Matthew Gold

Subject Categories

Philosophy | Rhetoric


Computer; Glass; Screen; Window


In computer and cell phone screens, as in 19th-century architecture, glass employs a frame to show a specific picture, and keeps us at a distance from what lies behind it. Glass' dichotomies in technology (transparency and reflection, isolation and closeness) have become stronger metaphors for our experience with technology. This paper will look at the similarities between the language and metaphors created by glass in 19th-century architecture and 21st century technology, and glass' role in connecting us to and alienating us from the world 'outside.' In so doing, the role of glass in the imagination and its impact on modernity will be explored through the lens of Charles Baudelaire's Paris Spleen and Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project. Paying due attention to the historical and psychological theories of the screen from Anne Friedberg and Sherry Turkle, and incorporating Isobel Armstrong's literary and material history of glass, this paper will then explore glass' impact as an instrument of technology.

The unique properties of glass have impacted the future and the imagination, always transforming how we interact with the [virtual] world. Glass is now, more than ever, both connecting us to and distancing us from our surroundings.