The metainterface spectacle

Critical Writing
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

With ‘interface criticism’ (Andersen and Pold) as an outset, we will address how the interface is in a transition from a closed system of interaction, to a dispersed network. More specifically, we are interested in how to relate aesthetically to this transition as a new mode of organization of the ‘masses’ (or ‘users’) that takes place in a cultural industry around metainterfaces. Following a path of critique from Benjamin, Kracauer, Crary, Hayles and others, we intend to discuss it as a new form of media spectacle: a ‘metainterface spectacle’ that simultaneously organizes the users, and offers a way of perceiving their reality as ‘cognitive assemblages’.

This spectacle not only makes the interface increasingly transparent, smooth and accessible to the users; it also makes the organization of and perspective on the users more opaque. Put differently, with increased digitization follows not only a smooth user-reality of social media, video conferencing, streaming, and more, but also the displacement of horrific conditions of labor in the countries that produce our platforms (at the factories in Shenzen or the mines in Congo), problems around privacy emerging from increased datafication, the decline of quality (sound and images are ‘poor’ (Steyerl, Sterne) and text is datafied), global monopolies, and more. This paradox poses an interesting question to interface criticism, and digital research more broadly: when the interface disappears, how may one develop a critical understanding of the potential disjunctions (or, dislocations (Laclau)) between the desires of the users and the organization of users (including the maximization of profit, transgression of data privacy, exploitation of resources, and more)? How is perception formatted by and through technology and data, how does this relate to broader reconfigurations of sense-perception and ways of reading?

In search for possible answers, we are particularly interested in the hard to capture dimensions of common practices of digital culture (how images, text, music, user data, etc. are circulated, formatted, metrified, filtered, re-purposed, and more), and how they are exposed and reflected in artistic practices. We will analyse how artists and authors (e.g. Joana Moll, Ben Grosser, or Allison Parish) try to emphasize their own critical practice (‘poetics’) in artist run workshops, and how they in this way seek to help users critically relate to a contemporary ‘metainterface spectacle’.

They do so in quite different ways; engaging different levels of code, technical infrastructures, surface/user interfaces, the use of software tools, and more. An analysis of how these workshop practices reflect the particular poetics of the artists relates to ongoing discussions within software studies (of ‘critical technical practice’ (Agre) and how to ‘(un)learn’ technology’ (Bogers & Chiappini); but it also opens up for discussions with neighboring fields, including digital humanities (how to perform critical textual analysis when the text is algorithmically performative and the performances hidden in the banal discretion of a technological (and often technocratic) system?), as well as design and HCI (how to understand ‘critical technical practice’ as an alternative to ‘design’?).

The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
Cecilie Klingenberg