Kristoffer on Wed, 1 May 2002 17:11:05 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: GENERATION FLASH: Usability/Interaction

In his book ”The Language of New Media”, Lev Manovich states:

“...given that most studies of new media and cyberculture focus on their sociological, economic and political dimensions, it was important for me to use the word language to signal the different focus of this work: the emergent conventions, recurrent design patterns, and key forms of new media.”

Thus it is clear how the series on “Flash aesthetics” fits perfectly into this preoccupation with the material qualities of digital media, as design material for a new breed of “neo-modernistic” artists...

I’m returning the discussion to Manovich briefly, in order to ask a question which relates back to the usability/interaction thread. How is it possible to neglect the sociological, economic and political dimensions of new media work, especially in a context which seems to invoke an idea of “pure aesthetics”? I’m not saying that Manovich is totally doing it but in pointing in that direction, gives rise, maybe indirectly, to a theoretical cirisis: what about the user in the event based nature of new media, and maybe more importantly , how do we go about approaching the idea of the user?
Eryk Salvaggio wrote:  
>There is a matter of addressing the Blue Haired lady or not, but in the end, that is the >central opinion of an artist alone for the work the artist is doing. If the work is designed to >appeal to the blue haired lady it has a blue haired lady interface, if the work is challenging >the idea of interface like jodi, there is no appeal for the blue haired lady. 

For me, this represents a kind of “common sense” attitude towards interaction design. It is very effective in creating interactive content in new media, both for commercial and artistic purposes. But let’s for a moment suppose that Gilles Deleuze was right in saying that art is never about communication, that it rather is an act of resistance through provocation. Then this type of approach to interaction design, will always fall within a “corporate” model, which offers us a very “reductive” version of the idea of the user. Within this user-oriented design, there is abstract interfaces and non-abstract interfaces – all depending on what type of user is targeted – the “persona” of commercial interaction design is like a virus, which spreads also to non-commercial software and new media art.

A rethinking of the subject of the user is needed. And this can only go by way of realising that all interaction design is also constructing a specific type of user. In a recent paper, by Michelle Kendrick, the idea of the “e-subject” is interestingly connected to a neo-liberal humanist idea of the subject. (“Interactive Technology and the Remediation of the Subject of Writing”, in Configurations 9) What is at stake, is a questioning of the criteria on which designers build interaction.

It should then be clear that this rethinking needs to assess the “sociological, economic and political dimensions” initially neglected. Maybe one could look for possible ways of doing this in the “discourse analysis” of german media theorist Friedrich Kittler. 
A starting point would be to pose the following question:
 - Why is the blue haired lady’s hair blue?

/Kristoffer Gansing

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