17 Apr

Interface dictatorship

Interfaces are increasingly becoming our mean to relate to reality. Interfaces are entrance points, contact surfaces and spaces of creation. They are designed, and therefore they are not neutral. Each interface, in fact, is a space of power and it involves preconceptions of human models.

There’s a subjacent ideology, with it’s ethical, political and aesthetic principles which are imposed to the user. This is done in many different ways, for example the use of icons and metaphors, the composition of the information, the choice of a color palette, or the navigation preferences. Taking this into account, we wonder if the interface may be considered as a dictatorship, and which is the space left for alternatives and dissidence.

Several agents like companies, organizations, designers, coders, users and communities convergein the interface. Although in different levels and intensities, these agents determine the interface, as well as the interfaces determine them.

The landscape where this (often invisible) relations takes place is an artificial environment, and therefore designed. According to the interface objectives, rules and uses are set. When building it, limitations and behavioural strategies are dictated, often under the illusion of freedom and transparency.

However, the interface is, above all, a meeting point between two systems (in the case of user interface, between a machine and a human). Interfaces allow the use of complex tools, and in this process, the user delegates part of the machine controlto the designer of this communication bridge. In the mediation of this relation, ablack-boxingis established: the interface hides a series of processes, and it is in this opacity where the power often is rooted. But, who are the agents that have this power? Which strategies they use? Are this agents aware of their own power?

Considering the way that most of the interfaces are constructed, the average user has the impression of being interacting within a neutral and intimate environment, when inevitably is being conditioned and monitorized by several systems. Is the user being used? Is the user co-participating? Or is the user really under control? Are we aware of which implications might these different models have on our means of interacting with the interface?

And in the same direction, and taking in account that this spaces are controlled agoraswhere several agents converge (organizations, users, machines): how do interfaces condition the communitiesthat use them?

Many internet platforms are feed by the users, generating a value out of it, but these users are rarely aware of their role as data generators. So, are interfacesfair enoughat the moment to show the importance, value and sometimes profitthat is being created by users?

And last but not least: taking all this in consideration, is it possible to visualize these power relations? How dissidence can be developed in this space?



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