If Disrupted

Screensaver Effect

The screensaver effect describes the production, distribution and role of some of the non-informative war images of Russian rocket attacks during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They are usually published on Ukrainian Telegram channels during times of shelling. In most cases, they are rather abstract images of the sky, clouds, smoke and rocket tracks, sometimes with blurred or pixelated elements.

The Ukrainian authorities and Ministry of Defence are strongly urging Ukrainian media outlets not to publish images of missile impact sites, at least during the air raid alert. According to the official statement, this is necessary to avoid correction by Russia through repeated blows. Presumably, this is also done to protect the population from uncontrollable panic.

In turn, Telegram channel administrators try to attract as big of an audience as possible. Against the backdrop of a lack of official commentary during times of shelling, such images and short emotional comments are sometimes the only information available and people readily consume it. Thus channels can increase their number of subscribers with this content and as a result, up the costs to advertisers. From the administrator’s side, the affectivity that provokes engagement in those channels is the main planned purpose of these images.

The screensaver effect is formed at the intersection of authority and commercial interests. It produces temporary invisibility as an additional layer of protection, crucial at moments of intensified hostilities. At the same time, these periods become so-called prime time slots, where the frightened audience has to consume image sets of the sky, clouds, smoke and rocket tracks, watermarked with the names of popular Telegram channels, in an attempt to figure out the extent of the damage.

In a sense, the whole system is more like a traditional screensaver, assembled from abstract, non-informative and affective images of the war. Originally, a screensaver was a computer program that blanked the display screen or filled it with moving images to prevent phosphor burn-in on monitors. Nowadays, screensavers are mostly used for decorative/entertainment purposes or password protection. (fantastic little splash)

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Yevgenia Belorusets