Paper, Glass, Algorithm: Teleprompters and the Invisibility of Screens
The teleprompter, invented in 1948 as a memory aid for show business, has become a ubiquitous technology in modern politics. Yet, the hidden ways in which this device shapes our understanding of performance, newscasting, and political rhetoric are rarely studied by media scholars. Recognizing this lacuna, this article traces the evolution of the teleprompter from a cumbersome, human-operated device to an invisible system of screens designed to conceal its own existence. The teleprompter has not only shaped the standardization of speech, but also restructured the televised spectacle by collapsing the sonic, the tactile, and the optical. By focusing on teleprompter fiascos and moments of breakdown from President Eisenhower to President Trump, we make a broader argument regarding the importance of failure and the accidental to the study of visual culture.