28 Nov

Interface Working Session

One of the aims of PIPES_BCN is the creation of a Critical Interface Manifesto. Our research team is currently working on it and on November 18th a collective work session took place in which some of the key concepts of the future Critical Interface Manifesto were shared and discussed.

Many of these ideas we are working with come from the reference bibliography that we have been reading like “Interface Criticism: Aesthetics Beyond the Buttons” (Christian Ulrik Andersen, Soren Bro Pold), “the Interface effect” (Alexander Galloway) or “Evil Media” (Matthew Fuller, Andrew Goffey) to name just a few.

The methodology that we followed within this framework was to display a brainstorming session in which every participant would contribute with three statements that could be part of an Interface Manifesto. We tried to organize some of these shared ideas and the result was a compilation of statements that summarize some controversial concepts crossing the interface conceptualization such as transparency, symmetry, collaboration, openness, ownership, etc.

During this working session other issues were discussed. First we look over the aims of the manifesto trying to answer some very basic questions like why should we focus and produce a manifesto, or how can we contribute to this field and who will be its target.

We also focused on questions related with the formal aspects of the manifesto that posed some dilemmas such as: should we strive for simplicity and clarity or rather should we try to be creative and poetic? or, should  the Manifesto itself  be an interface? and if yes, how can we design a coherent Manifesto so it can contain its ideology embedded on its own interface?



25 Nov

Mixed experience: when ‘users’ and ‘developers’ make tools together by Femke Snelting & OSP (Open Source Publishing)

Following the aim to explore the landscape between ‘users’ and ‘developers’ on digital tools, PIPES_BCN organized on November 7th a mixed experience inviting people prom Constant, a Brussels’ based association for Arts and Media, and design caravan OSP, in the framework of the Free Culture Forum.

The workshop reflected on the necessity of shift out our digital practices away from the pressures of meritocracy and the limits of the technocentrism, and the need to make tools together.

Participants were diverse, coming from graphic or fashion design, art, architechture, culture theory or activism. After the introductions, Femke Snelting from Constant, highlighted that design can be regarded as a strategy driven by tools which must be considered: they somehow channel experiences and expectations, and they condition the way we work. In this sense, Femke said, when we speak about tools we’re also talking about interfaces, so we have to blur the line between them.

After displaying this first thoughts, pals from Open Source Publishing Gijs De Heij and Eric Schrijver presented Visual Culture, a tool / interface that comes from the world of programming to share and publish any design project with the possibility to see and retrieve any previous version. Visual Culture provides an archive, a tool to publish and a tool to collaborate and share based on Git versioning software.

In this online software, each project is explained and each step is recorded, so a biography of those projects is built, basing future conversations. Through Visual Culture people can share their creative process on the web instead of taking it for itselfs. Knowledge is shared and exchanged, because it invites participants to create open source projects, so everyone can download it.

Saying so, the Tool Parade was launched, focusing on three different tools:

  1. Etherpad-to-graphviz, a collaborative graph visualization tool developed by OSP, where nodes (concepts, ideas, people, etc.) are linked to each other in different ways.
  2. html2print, also developed by OSP, is a little tool to start a print project using HTML, less/CSS and Javascript/Jquery to design it.
  3. Feed-to-be-fed comes from a streaming project where multiples images were uploaded by different users and displayed on a screen in public space, creating a public animation. Doing so, a narrative without hierarchy was built.

Participants separated in groups that tried and reflected on this tools according to their interests. The team that used etherpad-to-graphviz tried to represent a conversation between persons. As it works with coding language, they learnt the amount of layers between people and machines, and realized that average people don’t use the same languages as machines.

The second team worked on html2print, a tool that links web and print which can display text, code raw and print format. Using this, they tried to answer some of the questions setted for the workshops (as: is this a tool or an interface? How do you use it, or would you want to use it? Who has made this tool/interface, and why? among others). Team concluded that there’s a change on design: print design thinks on a static canvas, thinking first on a space and then organizing it. On web content is more fluent, and the design is thought taking in account dynamic issues. Similar to this software, OSP developed Ethertoff, a simple collaborative web platform, much resembling a wiki but featuring realtime editing thanks to Etherpad. Its output is constructed with equal love for print and web. Based on this, there’s an other software avaliable at f-u-t-u-r-e.org where users can change design and content and printing it in pdf.

Regarding to Feed-to-be-fed, the participants talked about the tool as an open interface where people can collaborate in real time uploading videos from it’s computer, creating a collaborative work settled in the public space.  During the conversations, several points related to the future interface manifesto appeared.

14 assumptions about interfaces

  • What if we could work/thing with the tool? What if we could dialogue with the tool?
  • If you don’t realize the presence of the tool, you’ll even think about it.
  • Interfaces are part of out technobiography, are part of the way we live with tecnhnology.
  • We should interrogate tools (and interfaces): ask different things to different tools.
  • Some interfaces might have instruction manual to show it’s performance and to enable user to modify it.
  • Can all the interfaces be seen under the same ethical light? Should we classify them in different types? (i.e. communication vs creation interfaces).
  • Averages users could say: Knowing is trouble, not knowing is bliss.
  • We don’t want the tool to go away, not to make it INVISIBLE. We want the tool to be part of the world, not a bridge to “reality”. The tool is part of the reality.
  • Assuming that computers are here to stay, instead of make them “disappear”, how to have a more natural wanted foreground vs unnatural unwanted background.
  • Internet’s has agency power on people: always connected, always uploading, faster.
  • Thinking on transparency and honesty of interfaces: there is a lot of decisions we take every time, we cannot see ALL, do ALL, deal with ALL, so it’s much more about what we CHOOSE.
  • Regarding internet GUI: It was very interesting to see how HTML teaching became a way to professionalize, so students accepted learning html as an standard.
  • There are some examples of transparent interfaces: Inkscape, Laidout.
  • Commercial products shape the way professional interfaces should look: Gimp has to look “professional” so it becomes a stokolm sindrom to look like photoshop.


24 Nov

Free Culture Forum

Last 5th, 6th and 7th of November was held the Free Culture Forum, an XNET project that shows practices and sensibilities developed in the environment of free culture in the world of design (not without conflict). FCF wants to present new perspectives, attitudes and pedagogies, through projects that are experimenting with new tools, licences and methodologies. This 2014 edition took place in BAU, Design Collage of Barcelona, and it was full of interesting presentations and workshops.

Here you have the full programme information.

XNET recorded the 6th November presentations. Following  you have all the videos linked.

Recorded talks in Bau, FCF 6th November 2014

Introduction by FCForum (Simona Levy/Jaron Rowan) – Watch the video of the presentation here

Block 1 – Free design practices

“Diseño libre desde la práctica, la experiencia de un laboratorio maker ciudadano” – Josianito Llorente – Watch the video of the presentation here

“Paths, streams and flows”  – Manufactura Independente – Watch the video of the presentation here

“Visual culture, a tool for distributed design collaboration” – OSP (Open Source Publishing) – Watch the video of the presentation here

Block 2 – Prostetics and contraptions

“Lives off catalog: from designing functional diversity” – En torno a la silla – Watch the video of the presentation here

“Autofabricación Colectiva de Prótesis en Código Abierto” – Exando una Mano – Watch the video of the presentation here

Block 3 – Free hardware and design

“Top-Down Economies VS self-replication Hardware: Domestic Digital Manufacturing” – Raul Nieves / Faboratory – Watch the video of the presentation here

Block 4 – Critical perspectives in design and art

“I think that conversations are the best, biggest thing that free software
has to offer its users” – Femke Snelting – Watch the video of the presentation here

Anne Laforet – Watch the video of the presentation here

Block 5 – Designing open spaces

“Test Over Test”- LaCol – Watch the video of the presentation here

“Diseño abierto. Otras políticas, otras agencias” – Zuloark – Watch the video of the presentation here

Presentations links

“Visual culture, a tool for distributed design collaboration” – OSP (Open Source Publishing)

“Lives off catalog: from designing functional diversity” – En torno a la silla

“Autofabricación Colectiva de Prótesis en Código Abierto” – Exando una Mano

“Test Over Test”- LaCol

22 Sep

Art Matters Seminars Discusses the Idea of Interface

In the framework of PIPES BCN research, the 1st of July Hangar hosted an Art Matters Seminar focused on interfaces, the research issue of the project. In this occasion, besides of the usual attendees we had an special guest: Jorge Luís Marzo, exhibition curator, writer and lecturer at the Bau University School.

After the traditional presentation of the seminar and the attendees introduction, Jorge sugested that devices should turn into interfaces: there is a need that machines could socialize with each other and people, and added that now there is an independence of the (TV) screen, because screens are everywhere.

Regarding to this, other of the participants introduced the idea of relational spaces from social scientist and geographer Doreen Massey, to highlight the space where humans and not humans relate. Following this path, seminar leader Pau Alsina added that there is a relation between the material and the symbolic, and explained that the concept of infrastructure from Bruno Latour is very useful to attend this.

In fact, as Pau clarified, one of the seminar aims is to fight the perspective of researching things (as art, etc.) regardless of their ability of agency. Thinking about interface, some authors placed the software in the center of the analysis (Manovich, i.e). In a  similar way, the essay Interface Criticism: Aesthetic Beyond Buttons, Christian Ulrik Andersen and Soren Bor Pold (as editors) attempts to enter into the interface, thinking about it not just as a mere surface in which political and social conditioning bounce, but as a society articulator.

Another participant added that there is a need of artistic practices questioning these phenomena. The devices are sociability producers, a trigger for social behaviours, and STS studies can help to understand which are the processes through which this standards crystalize. The interface should not be explained but is the explanation, which conveys.

Some authors sharing this point of view are Mathew Fuller, crossing cultural studies with software studies, or Michel Callon, an engineer and sociologist. The actor-network theory and relational materialism are useful perspectives to understand the interface as a complex phenomena, given that they understand technosciencies as a net that includes both human and non-human entities, heeding to the associations between them.

A good example of the success of certain technologies from this approach is the coding language Processing. It has become so popular and used because it has been developed for artists to artists, and has opened a new field of accessible creativity that can be translated from the art field to the industry, and where creators, technologist, coders or scientists can converge.

Building a Manifesto

One of the goals of PIPES BCN is to write an Interface Manifesto. Talking about that, Jorge Luís Marzo said that images may not represent the reality but hide it (as happens in the film The Matrix). The texts are disappearing and being replaced by icons or images full of meaning (Twitter bird, for example, or F by Facebook).

Nowadays, societies live dazzled by the new gadgets and technological services provided by the industry, there’s a technophilic layer that can bring to technical nihilism. We enjoy the latests technologies, but where is the responsability? There can be pointed just one actor?

In the case of interface, what is important is not just the object, but the function of this object in a certain context. This is the argument that defends the article An Introduction to Interface Phenomenology from Josep M. Català. Interface translates more than mediates (mediate has a friendly connotation), and it only exists when there is a need for dialogue. Interfaces are part of our lives, and despite the wide variety of devices, they tend to the homogenization and standarization. Related to technology, there has always been a search for universal languages and standards. The screws are an example, as well as internet protocols.

In technology there’s no neutrality, although there certainly is an illusion of it. It’s stories are bounded to the idea of progress, and preconceptions of human being or ideas related to power are embodied in those objects and the practices they enable. When talking about interface, it seems to be a request coming from users: give me buttons. The designers or engineers of our washing machines, radios or computers seem to say: just press the button and we do the rest. Here are clearly a number of preconceptions that shows us that the dichotomy between active subject and passive object is completely obsolete.

25 Aug

PIPES: A first collaboration experience between Hangar and UOC

Recently, Mosaic has published an article about PIPES as a first collaboration experience between Hangar and UOC.

The article, entitled “Research, creation and interdisciplinarity for an Interface Manifesto” (in spanish), deepens in the content and activites of PIPES, and explanes which are the aims and expectations of both UOC and Hangar in this new mutual project.

25 Aug

Hugo Roy interview @ Mosaic magazine

As part of the collaboration between Hangar and UOC, Mosaic magazine, an online publication created on the framework of Multimedia Degree and Multimedia Apps Masters of UOC, has published an interview to Hugo Roy.

Mosaic focuses on the link between interaction, design, web, apps and videogames developing, and therefore is interested in the issues worked in PIPES.

Hugo Roy’s interview (in spanish) is related to its participation to the Interface Dictatorship Roundtable, and reflects on the terms and conditions of the services we use in internet.

28 Jun

Iconic Days videos

Iconic Days was a three days symposium held in the framework of PIPES, dedicated to iconic communication in theory and practice. It that took place between the 11th and the 13th of March in Prague Centre for Contemporary Art DOX.

Michael Bielický from ZKM (Germany) made a historical approach to symbols as a way to simplify the communication, and presented some contemporary projects related to this.

Read More

21 Jun

Interface Dictatorship materials

As part of participation in the roundtable, speakers provided a range of materials to deepen the theme of the interface as a space of power. Then you can consult the presentations shown during the discussion and the texts written by the speakers for this occasion.

Mayo Fuster

Interface Dictatorship (Governance) – Presentation

Digital Interaction: Online Creation Communities – Text Read More

18 Jun

Interface Dictatorship: mesa redonda

Como parte de la investigación realizada en PIPES_BCN, el martes 27 de mayo se llevó a cabo en Hangar una mesa redonda que buscó indagar en una aproximación crítica sobre la idea de interfaz gráfica de usuario.

Teniendo en cuenta los focos de interés de la investigación, se invitó a participar a Mayo Fuster, Marga Padilla, Hugo Roy y Carlos Scolari, con la moderación de Andreu Belsunces.

Antes de iniciar el debate, Tere Badía, directora de Hangar, presentó el proyecto PIPES en el marco del centro, y explicó que es una de las semillas para crear proyectos de investigación transdisciplinarios, transuniversitarios –en este caso están involucrados UOC y BAU- y buscadamente problematizadores.

Tras esto, se introdujo la idea de interfaz como un espacio de poder, sobre la cual se dialogaría durante las dos siguientes horas. Read More


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