The Interface and its Effects

Both Hookway and Galloway emphasize the cultural significance of interfaces. I found Hookway’s tie between interfaces and the subject to be particularly compelling:

“the interface entails implications for notions of control and intelligence… These include the system and, perhaps most relevant to this study’s focus on the human relation to technology, the subject and its production through processes of subjectification…Likewise, agency, or the will and means to action, is a capacity at once mediated by and produced upon the interface.” (5)

He goes on to say that the interface is instrumental in defining what is human and what is machine. The sociopolitical implications of this statement echo Hookway’s assertion that the interface is a “disputed zone” or “site of contestation” (x) that both defines differences and simultaneously separates classes and draws them together.

Galloway uses similar language when he describes the interface as an “’agitation’ or generative friction between different formats,” but like Hookway, Galloway explores the cultural and political nature of the relationship between humans and technology through the interface. He writes on the “larger forces that engender” interfaces (vii), calling the interface itself a “control allegory” (30) and then exploring the way Marxist theory, fascism, utilitarianism, and the concept of a political consciousness relate to interfaces.

In this way, it seems that the preliminary definitions of what constitutes an interface do not seem to be the main takeaway Galloway and Hookway ask us to contemplate. Rather, we are faced with larger questions about the subjectification that occurs within the human relationship to technology, but also through larger institutional uses of interfaces in an effort to control the populace. If the interface is a “theory of culture,” as Hookway posits, then both of these texts explore the possibilities and perils of interface interactions within our culture.


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