R4: Graphesis Chapter 4

The chapter Interface and Interpretation in Graphesis covers the concept of interface (or more specifically, human computer interface) in the context of history, functionality, theory, and design. What stood out to me were two things:  Drucker's interpretation of the interface as more than just a structure of organization or a portal, and her tracing of the interface from when manuscripts first came to be to the digital age now.

The interface, conventionally seen as merely a means to an end, a stable organizational form, is more than just that--it is a mediating environment that interacts with us as subjects, it is a set of possibilities that we engage with to constitute experience, it is governed by probability and perception just as much as information itself is. I was particularly interested in the details of humanistic interface: "interface design that incorporate humanistic principles in their organization." I was surprised to read that what I thought was humanistic interface, human-centered design (basically user experience/user interface design), was not what I thought it was. Drucker states that the standard theory of interface based on the "user experience" is set on a goal to "design an environment to maximize efficient accomplishment of tasks--whether these are instrumental, analytic, or research oriented--by individuals who are imagined as autonomous agents whose behaviors can be constrained in a mechanical feedback loop." However, what is actually humanistic interface is to take into account all motivations, even those that are not goal-oriented, registering qualities of human experience into its design and facilitating new experiences by engagement with the interface.

I also appreciated the history of the interface, its origins in print with no structural organization or form. Features such as columns, table of contents, chapters, paragraphs--everything that we are familiar with now, only came to be because there was a need for scholarly discoveries and analysis. We have implemented these structures of print into digital environments, not because the technology necessitates this, but because conventions of print design. However, we must expand beyond that in our conceptualization of digital environments and consider what the "book of the future" would be. I think the possibilities of what we can do with information and datasets available to us are infinite--if we could create digital environments that allowed for deep exploration of these datasets, accounting for needs specific to them, there is the potential of so much discovery and reflection. The book of the future is a mediator of self-made discoveries, of diverging paths that lead us to many more experiences. The information is already there en masse--we need interface to advance in order to properly harness this information.

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