Interface Friction: The Politics of Participation and the Spaces Between Users and New Media

Interface Friction: The Politics of Participation and the Spaces Between Users and New Media

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Communication and interfaces go hand in hand. Interfaces are conduits through which signals pass, and these pathways for communication offer a site from which to explore the relationship between senders and receivers of messages. Working within a critical media studies framework, the dissertation argues that interfaces channel institutional power. The central claim is grounded via an examination of three particular interface contexts: ergonomic interfaces for workers in the information economy, listener/phonograph interfaces for a record player from the first decade of the 20th century, and the interface between Apple's iPod and the community of iPodders who make creative alterations to the device. Moreover, the project asserts that producers design interfaces such that they conceal their role in power relations. Common to all three case studies is that a customizable interface provides a veneer of user empowerment that simultaneously isolates users. In a contemporary media landscape where privileged individuals can broadcast themselves using networked, interactive communication technologies, user empowerment has become a seeming right of passage to the digital age. Interfaces are positioned by people in power as a place for users to take control of media technology, but there are important limitations to the purported transfer of agency. First, interfaces tend to obscure the world beyond the screen. In other words, interfaces call attention to the immediate surroundings in which users interact with their machines at the expense of global, structural inequalities endemic to the production of these commodities. Second, interfaces offer a means of user interaction with machines that perpetuates power relations while seeming to undermine them. By calling attention to some of the ways that particular interfaces are deployed by people in a position of power, these conduits for communication become objects for critical inquiry. Furthermore, the dissertation attempts to complicate facile notions that interactive media technologies can single-handedly bridge the gap between individuals with different positions in society. The points of contact for communication technology give a palpable presence to emerging dynamics of power in a media environment where the user is promoted as a new agent for social transformation.Apple ships their portable media player with a sticker on the screen that reads aquot; Dona#39;t Steal Musicaquot; in English, French, ... that industry-approved iPod engravings offer a way for iPodders to establish their identity in relation to the product, Applea#39;sanbsp;...

Title:Interface Friction: The Politics of Participation and the Spaces Between Users and New Media
Author:Peter Daniel Schaefer
Publisher:ProQuest - 2008


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