Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Antagonistic Interfa(e)ces: Encapsulation and Impure Code

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch

  • Geoff Cox
  • Robert Jackson, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom
  • Department of Information and Media Studies
If platform applications have become the primary mode of accessing online information and communication, it should come as no surprise that the political motivations for doing so emerge from an antagonism inherent in the Object Oriented paradigm of encapsulation.
Following ‘Platform Studies’ (Bogost and Montfort), the paper will assume that 'platforms' are the foundational hardware or software system environments where programs are executed. However, what constitutes the increasingly proprietary level of privatised service platforms are the forced removals of complexity implemented through the logic of encapsulation. As a rule, encapsulation reduces system complexity between the user and the platform's influence mediated by the formal behaviour of code and the representative interface. In turn, this has led to the constraint of expression within the public realm by suppressing the political practice of platform modification, and the privileging of private property. We claim that the ‘App’ paradigm promotes private, proprietary software through ‘clean’ interfaces. In turn, this can be theorised as a symptom of a wider political stance towards the purification of code. In a strictly ideological manner, a ‘clean’ interface can make sense of
what does not make sense. It aims to mask or supplement the ‘shitty’ complexity of code and the underlying platform structure, concealed through layers of operational function and benign interface. Such statements evoke the intervention of Dominique Laporte, in the History of Shit (first published in 1978), who verified how the suppressed agency of citizen-subjects under
modern power is coded through the conditions of managing human waste. Parallel to the cleansing of the streets, Laporte argues that the French language had also been similarly purged of its "lingering stink" so that it became purer and closer to authority.
The paper will further link the purification of code to the structure of ideology inherent in Zizek’s psychoanalytical model between Symbolic reality, the antagonistic Real and ideological concealment. The purification is technical in so far as it is political and indeed we argue that code is, in itself, subject to the same excremental foundations as the subject. We claim that platform politics is not just the study between the technical limitations of platforms, software, code, hardware and representation, but also the heightened political strategy of masking, cleansing and purifying those antagonistic limitations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year13 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2011

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 36808419