Readings, and Related Inspirations

Noticing the Interface


The first time I read Selfe and Selfe’s “Politics of the Interface,” I remember being surprised that I had never thought much about interfaces or my interactions with them. This time around, I am more prepared, and less shocked by the ideas that interfaces are mostly built for Americans. They serve as a border between user and computer which require “strategies of crossing — and demystifying” (Selfe and Selfe 495).

In pairing the Selfe and Selfe piece with Anne Wysocki and Julia Jasken’s article “What Should be an Unforgettable Face…” and Sorapure’s “Text, Image, Code, Comment: Writing in Flash”, I have a new perspective of interface – new thoughts, and a rather silly idea I would like to pose here.

As I noted above, before my initial reading of Selfe and Selfe, I largely took computer interfaces for granted. I didn’t grow up with computers, although my uncle did bring over his Commodore 64 to show off a time or two, and we got to play games with text, creating pictures out of letters and alphanumerics, kind of like we see in the Sorapure article, but much less sophisticated. He would print off our ‘pictures’ on his dot matrix printer, and we would take pens, crayons, and pencils to the paper.

I had friends that used computers before Graphical User Interfaces were taken for granted. So I do remember the transition. Back then, interface was very noticeable. the change over was drastic. We no longer had to put in commands to tell the computer what to do.

And then there was the Information Superhighway— and we needed an interface for that too.

But soon, the interface disappeared. Or rather, most of us didn’t notice it anymore. It wasn’t new, it wasn’t too flashy. It was designed to be forgotten.

Except in web 2.0, I can manipulate my interface, if I know how. Sorapure talks about the politics of coding and how that changes the cultural capital of coders. They now have a power over information that is exclusive to coders. But I don’t need to know how to code to change how my students react and interact with ULearn: It’s true though, that I can’t manipulate most of ULearn. I can’t change the boxy-feel of it. I can’t change the tabs. But I can change nearly everything else. I don’t have to force file folders on my students. I can use space ships. I can use Harry Potter Characters. I can use food. On my windows PC though, I can change the boxy feel to make my operating system look more bubbly. I can change where the tool bar is located. Personally, I prefer not to ever look at icons on my desktop. Like my desk at home, I like it to be clean and free of clutter. Oftentimes, when a friend opens my computer to use the internet, he or she is initially confused and thinks that my computer may be broken. Almost every time, I get a good laugh out of it.

Comparing my desktop to my actual, physical desk at home got me thinking about all the other interfaces we also don’t talk about. Aren’t there interfaces we have to interact with all the time? Like this one:

For me, the cubicle creates a border that dissects my work life off from my real life. I am a robot in that interface. I have no opinion, no life, no will to continue on. I refuse to interact with this particular interface.

But I’m a big fan of this one:

The kitchen interface serves as a border between me and my food. I have to use it and manipulate it to compose my dinner, my lunch, and to wash my dishes when I’m done.

If I think about the cubicle and the kitchen as interfaces, I wonder if the same ideas of the politics of American Imperialism apply in the kitchen as they do in the computer.


2 thoughts on “Noticing the Interface

  1. I like your use of visuals to create meaning for your text. It demonstrates the visual aspect of Wysocki and Jasken. You say, ” the interface disappeared. Or rather, most of us didn’t notice it anymore. It wasn’t new, it wasn’t too flashy. It was designed to be forgotten.” Again, that embodies the work of Wysocki and Jasken as they say that is the design of interfaces.

  2. Indeed- I wonder that too about the interfaces that are everywhere. I despise ULearn too much to even mess with it but I’m impressed that you do

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