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Title: The interface is obsolete : a critical investigation of the digital interface in interactive new media installations
Author: Shanbaum, Phaedra
ISNI:       0000 0004 6353 3672
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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My thesis proposes a critical framework for understanding the digital interface in interactive new media installations. I aim at dispelling the instrumental, cybernetic, “action-reaction” myth that surrounds the functions of the interface and that constitutes one of the main limitations in its conceptualization today. I argue that a rethinking of the digital interface in terms of its aesthetic and cultural properties is essential if we are to take digital interfaces seriously as devices that inform or even, to some extent, structure our relationship with technology. Theorists who work in the interdisciplinary field of interface studies have historically been preoccupied with the technical and instrumental functions the interface performs – specifically with how it acts and reacts to pre-programmed information. To do this, they have predominantly drawn on computer science and engineering perspectives. Thus digital interfaces have commonly been understood as the symbolic software that enables humans to use computers. My thesis approaches the digital interface from a different direction, concentrating on the aesthetic and cultural aspects of the digital interface, and drawing on scholarship from the fields of art history and media studies. In particular, I focus on critically examining how various interfaces are defined within art environments and how they influence the way subjects, objects, and the relationships and processes that exist between them are understood in these disciplinary fields and practices. Throughout, I propose a more expansive definition of the digital interface in interactive new media installations, positioning it as a dynamic, hybrid, aesthetic and cultural process. I thus reformulate the problem of the digital interface as a problem of making the often invisible aspects of the device legible. Ultimately, I argue that the interface mediates, thus creates, to an extent, relationships between viewer/participants, artists and artworks as well as influences the movements and perceptions of those interacting with it. This reading enables me to conclude that the digital interface can be seen as an important actor in positioning and (re)shaping specific ways in which the self relates to technology, to artistic practice and to other human and nonhuman beings in the current media culture. At the heart of this thesis is the notion that the digital interface matters and that a critical exploration of it in aesthetic contexts can help us understand and possibly reconfigure our human relationship with technology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral