Alec MacLeod
Since 2004
Works in United States of America

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Call for Papers: Interface Panel at CAA

Fri Jun 11, 2004 15:20

Call for Papers
New Media Caucus Open Session Panel
at the 93rd Annual Conference of the College Art Association
Atlanta, Georgia, February 16-19, 2005.

Alec MacLeod and Laurie Beth Clark, chairs

Interface is the meeting place between human and computer. For this panel we wish to emphasize the notion of interface through graphics and the underlying structures through which we access and manipulate electronic media. How do interfaces structure and mediate our access to and experience of net browsers, portals & web sites, games, virtual communities, and other software applications? Designers emphasize transparency and the “intuitive” qualities of the interface. The implicit—and sometimes explicit—language employed is highly metaphoric. Initially concepts of “navigation” and “files and folders” pointed to familiar (to some people) “real world” references. Increasingly, there are emerging conventions for the interface which make use of now familiar, though arbitrary, symbolic iconography. In talking with designers and reading about interface design, we detect or imagine a longing for a universal visual language. That said, almost everyone seems to concede that verbal descriptions are necessary to make an interface usable. While icons may become conventional signs, there is no way to make one that is likely to evoke a widely shared intuitive comprehension on first sight.

This panel will provide a much needed opportunity to interrogate the desire for and feasibility of transparency, universality, and the intuitive nature of interfaces, acknowledging the ways in which the designs of interfaces encode narrow and dominant modes of thought. An underlying issue is the role of the tools that create the interfaces.

We encourage presentations that reveal the implicit assumptions that seem to make an interface transparent and intuitive. A discussion of possible tools and methods for deconstructing the cultural assumptions in interface design would be one approach. Alternatively, inquiry into the metaphors used in different interface conventions and designs might be a direction to go. We would like to see the panel include those who are actually involved in making interfaces not just deconstructing them.

Questions to raise on this panel include:

•Does the ubiquitous use of western perspectival representation reinscribe the problematics of the gaze?
•What are the dominant and emerging metaphors and in what histories are they embedded?
•What are the aesthetics and politics of normalized interface experiences such as those users have while reading email or generating documents using commercial operating systems and software?
•How much of what gets created is the product of the logic of the team that designed the software that even high end designers use to create the interfaces?
•To what extent does the nature of the code which is used determine the bias and premise of these visual products?
•How do the logics used by design applications dictate linearity and menu orientation?
•What different issues result from the extensive use of hyperlinks?
•Has the wide dissemination of computer interface iconography initiated a true disjunct between earlier studies of iconographic systems such as those from the visual arts? How might it be read as in a continuum with these?

Please submit proposals to and by August 1, 2004.