01 Aug

Interface Realisms

In Søren Pold’s article "Interface Realisms" in the new issue of Postmodern Culture, he suggests that the interface is now a central aesthetic form conveying digital information of all kinds.

"This circumstance is simultaneously trivial, provocative, and far reaching – trivial because the production, reproduction, distribution and reception of digital art increasingly take place at an interface; provocative because it means that we should start seeing the interface as an aesthetic form in itself that offers a new way to understand digital art in its various guises, rather than as a functional tool for making art (and doing other things); and finally, far-reaching in providing us with the possibility of discussing contemporary reality and culture as an interface culture" (2).

The article begins with an interesting look at the history of HCI, including a brief reference to Alan Kay,  Engelbart’s Online System NLS and Sutherland’s Sketchpad.

There’s a great mention of my new favority acronym, WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointers) and a few other references worth noting.

He then delves into a lengthy discussion of three texts: a computer game (Max Payne), a net.game modification (Jodi’s SOD) and a software artwork (auto-illustrator).  He makes the point that in each, there is attention paid to the interface and the possibilities for critical engagement.  He suggests that these functions move beyond the medium in which they originate.

An interesting point from Frieder Nake, one of the pioneers of computer graphics, is that computers are an instrumental medium that we use as a tool while communicating with it as a medium.  He runs with this idea and suggests that "we can see the computer as a new kind of machine that mediates the instrumental or functional and functionalizes the representational medium" (28).

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