Interface is defined here as a protocolised communication system that is used to translate dissimilar languages and formats or to connect and regulate various models, dynamics and scales for the purpose of generating compatible work and information flows.
Likewise, interfaces can also be described as devices that facilitate the usability of complex technical information and production systems when in the hands of operators who are not always professionals. They may be categorised by function as equipment (hardware) or interactive visualisation (graphical user interface).
We understand all dispositions, mechanisms, narratives, dynamics or presumptions as interface policies that are established through the maintenance and modification of the protocols upon which interfaces operate.
The interpretation of the construction and role of interfaces within the current narrative of communications has been subject to the core metaphors which the narrative has been built upon. The liquid conceptualisation of communication – which is directly linked to the ongoing establishment of the dynamics generated by capitalism and in which ideas, subjectivity, goods and capital constitute an energy-based universe where they are neither created nor destroyed, but transformed, – has positioned interfaces within the context of an intangible conception that has been solved by appealing to its ‘transparency’, ‘naturality’ and ‘availability’. Interfaces, thus perceived as necessary and unquestionable tools for shaping the complexity of a volatile environment, seem to lack the capacity to generate interpretations that will question their role as devices responsible for the determinism and theology that dominate today’s narratives of communication.
Nevertheless, there exists the possibility for interfaces to be interpreted as a solidification of interests, as assemblage (Deleuze) or Device (Foucault), as a mirror subject to certain fixations that enables us to observe the role they have been assigned in order to guarantee the normalcy of the constitution and evolution of current communications and ‘digital solutions’. Given the mechanicist narrative of progress that has impregnated the history of interfaces, it also provides windows that unveil underlying compulsions that are not usually made explicit.
The gradual definition of the morphology of interfaces is a tense process between the functional needs of industry and the social feedback triggered by their dissemination; this tension comes to transform the interfaces themselves, be it by forcing changes or by protecting them from change.
When viewed from a critical standpoint, interfaces show that the metaphorical narrative to which they have been ascribed seems to have been brought about by means of a constant, with regard to the type of relationship that capitalists have developed with regard to the environment around them: the control of randomness, the domination of chaos. Interfaces, both in their manifestation as devices and in their scientific materiality, have developed a hermeneutical apparatus that puts itself forward as an attempt to overwhelmingly dominate the randomness of existence and the natural and social forces that configure it. The control, recording, visualisation and transmission of statistics that make preventing ‘chaos’ possible are ultimately the fundamental cause of literature on interfaces becoming the touchstone for the current narrative of communications.
STANDARDISATION vs INNOVATION
How to resolve the demand for innovation in design and artistic fields with tools that are increasingly standardised?
Related tags: Teaching methods for design, Contradictions, paradoxes, diagnoses, experiments, solutions.
UTOPIA vs HETEROTOPIA
The narrative of interfaces has been constituted within the utopic narratives that are characteristic of technologies for information and the communication of capitalism. Is it possible to conceive and build heterotopic interfaces that can promote non-hegemonic times and spaces?
Related tags: Disruptive design, hacking design. Interfacial art. Videogames and otherness. The media’s ‘anachronistic’ archaeology and genealogy.
TRANSPARENCY vs OPACITY
Interfaces are presented as transparency models. But are they opaque in the sense that they hide their procedures? How can interfaces be designed so that they divulge their own ideology?
Related tags: Algorithms, indexing, data, software studies. Naturality vs. artificiality. Limits and boundaries of interfaces.
SIMPLICITY vs COMPLEXITY
Interfaces are presented as models of simplicity, ready to be operated by users who are not necessarily knowledgeable about technical procedures. Are they, however, promoting simplification of the physical and social realities they manage?
Related tags: Training, self-teaching in design. Open code vs. buttons and icons. Usability. User experience analysis.
SOLIDITY vs LIQUIDITY
The communicational narrative of interfaces belongs to a discourse on liquid culture and economy. How can we understand this discourse amidst the reality of the physical mass of objects, goods and inventions? With the ubiquitous physicality of interfaces all around?
Related tags: Materiality. Tangible media. Virtuality and physicality. Mobility and corporality.
CHAOS vs CONTROL
Interfaces have been established as devices for the domination and control of randomness, uncertainty and chaos. Are they the manifestation of machinery for ideological determination?
Related tags: Governance systems and processes. Internet protocols. Interactions and emergency. Counterwork philosophies.
USER vs OPERATOR
Do interfaces bring about linguistic and conceptual changes in their users? Does communication no longer have a ‘target’, but instead users and agents? Likewise, do users become (in)voluntary operators of communication businesses and generate co-opted value for the company?
Related tags: Immaterial work. Productivism. Potential agencies. Cooperative design processes.