Interface Manifesto

The “Manifesto for a critical approach to the interface” is the result of a collective and multidisciplinary investigation launched by Hangar, Production and Research Center of Visual Arts in Barcelona, and a group of researchers from the UOC. Between 2013 and 2015, a conceptual framework was built to think about the interface; How may we rethink its design and use patterns, stimulating the creation of more open and collaborative interfaces? How we may answer questions such as: Are we aware of all the interfaces we use daily? Do we decode the ideology behind? How does the construction of our identities influence the process? How to determine our interactions with others? How to generate economic value? Can we design an interface ethics? Can you make the invisible visible?

Writing the Manifesto was a choral work carried out by: Jorge Luis Marzo, Tere Badia, Pau Alsina, César Escudero, Jara Rocha, Andreu Belsunces, Quelic Berga, Laia Blasco, Femke Snelting, Rosa Llop and Clara Piazuelo. The Manifesto was completed, on the one hand, with a series of texts with the intention of developing some of the ideas contained in 14 points in greater depth. And, secondly, listing in entertainment, attitudes and actions that encourage an active critical relation to the interfaces. It is an open list, under development and debate.

The work around the Manifest is currently framed in the European project IMAGIT, to be developed between 2015 and 2017, although originally was created under the PIPES_BCN open framework, an initiative that was created in November 2013 as part of the European project of participation Participatory Investigation in Public Engaging Spaces (PIPES).


Manifesto for a critical approach to the user interface

The interface is a very broad concept that goes beyond the limits of the physical and the virtual. To narrow the intended scope of this manifesto, the nature of the interface we are talking about, refers to the [graphical] user-interface in the digital context.

  1. The interface is a device designed and used to facilitate the relationship between systems.
  2. (To) interface is a verb (I interface, you interface …). The interface occurs, is action.
  3. The interface exists in the crease between space and time; it is a device and simultaneously a situation. It is rendered (updated under thoughtful conditions) and emergent (joining into something new).
  4. The interface collects traces: traces and remains of all agents/agencies which converge in it.
  5. The  interface is the tip of the iceberg of a complex system of agents/agencies, of  interdependent infrastructures, codes, data, applications,  laws, corporations, individuals, sounds, spaces, behaviors, objects, protocols, buttons, times, affects, effects, defects …
  6. An interface is designed within a cultural context and in turn designs cultural contexts.
  7. The interface responds and embodies the economic logic of the system in which you enroll. It is a political device.
  8. The ideology of the interface is always embedded in the interface itself, but it is not always visible.
  9. Can we make the invisible visible? The more present interfaces are in our lives, the less we perceive them.
  10. The interface uses metaphors that create illusions: I am free, I can go back, I have unlimited memory, I am anonymous, I am popular, I am creative, it’s free, it’s neutral, it is simple, it is universal. Beware of illusions!
  11. The standard calls for a universal subject and generates processes of homogenization, but reduces the complexity and diversity . What is not standard?
  12. Users are entitled to know what the interface hides. Access to knowledge is a fundamental right.
  13. In the design of the interface, not only skills but also emotions and affections are deployed. How are emotions produced and circulated in interfaces?
  14. The user uses the interface perform agency, they coproduce each other and therefore they have the ability to define, redefine and contradict themselve by action or omission.