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Metainterface realisms and their UTOPIA

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

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Christian Ulrik Andersen - Lecturer

Søren Bro Pold - Lecturer

Despite attempts to make the metainterface disappear into a realism that is characterized by smooth access and smart interaction, its grammar gradually resurfaces. As users realize that behind the design’s benevolent smoothness, datacapture and exchange of information that all seem to be for the common good, building/adjusting to the reality of the user, there is a politics of the interface, too. This paper seeks to present a different kind of realism of interface design. It suggests firstly to direct attention to the process of designing interfaces, and secondly to consider the imaginary realities that are implicit in such processes.

More specifically, it asks, how the user – in a process of design – can be empowered in other ways than through the translucent contiguity and proximity of data, feeds, media streams, and more (suggested by a global metainterface industry)? How can interface design act ‘realist’ in other ways – critically, politically and tactically – in this situation? These are questions that address new figures of struggle: how to cope with a new imperial metainterface industry that feeds on data/statistical realisms (see e.g. Desrosières or Rouvroy), and how to seek out creative and realist alternatives?

To seek for potential ‘realist’ answers to these questions, the presentation will return to the history of userfriendly interfaces, and how it came to be the smart and cool gadgets that pervades all aspects of our lives.

It focuses particularly on critical and politically aware interface designs performed in Scandinavia in the 1970s and 80s in relation to the introduction of computers at the workplace. In other words, this presentation builds and reflects on the realist mechanisms of a new metainterface industry and further asks how one possibly can do critical and realist interface design in this situation – rather than just mimicking the user-friendly metaphors of interface design? This is not a question that can be answered easily, but lessons from Scandinavia, and in particular the “UTOPIA project” between computer system designers and the trade unions of newspaper production may prove useful. The paper will build on original historical material from this project; including documents co-published between computer scientists and Scandinavian trade unions during the 1980s.
29 Nov 2018

Event (Conference)

TitleInterface Politics
LocationBAU Centro Universitario de Diseño
Degree of recognitionInternational event


  • Realism, object orientation, participatory design, organization of labor, user empowerment

ID: 137586548