Synopses & Reviews
In this book, Branden Hookway considers the interface not as technology but as a form of relationship with technology. The interface, Hookway proposes, is at once ubiquitous and hidden from view. It is both the bottleneck through which our relationship to technology must pass and a productive encounter embedded within the use of technology. It is a site of contestation -- between human and machine, between the material and the social, between the political and the technological -- that both defines and elides differences. A virtuoso in multiple disciplines, Hookway offers a theory of the interface that draws on cultural theory, political theory, philosophy, art, architecture, new media, and the history of science and technology. He argues that the theoretical mechanism of the interface offers a powerful approach to questions of the human relationship to technology. Hookway finds the origin of the term interface in nineteenth-century fluid dynamics and traces its migration to thermodynamics, information theory, and cybernetics. He discusses issues of subject formation, agency, power, and control, within contexts that include technology, politics, and the social role of games. He considers the technological augmentation of humans and the human-machine system, discussing notions of embodied intelligence. Hookway views the figure of the subject as both receiver and active producer in processes of subjectification. The interface, he argues, stands in a relation both alien and intimate, vertiginous and orienting to those who cross its threshold.
Within the history of computing, the last thirty years have been defined by the ascendance of the personal computer, a device that finally brought the power of computation out of laboratories and corporate technology centers and into the purview of the individual user. That thirty years has seen a blur of technological advances in both hardware and software as computers have gotten smaller, faster, more powerful and more complex. In fact, so much has happened so quickly and been so dramatic in its effect on everyday life that we often forget to think about just how we have interacted with these machines over time, and how those interactions have come to define our experiences with these machines. In this regard the ubiquity of these tools, which often sell millions of units, and the almost constant state of change in the field of technological discovery often leaves us taking for granted just how different it has been to experience these machines at different points over time. This book aims to defamiliarize some of the most ubiquitous objects in the history of personal computing, allowing for a better understanding of the historical shifts that have occurred in the design and material experience of these computers, and to get visitors to start thinking about the cultural moments that have come to be defined by our interaction with these material objects.
Objects to be examined include:
Apple Macintosh Plus
Palm Pilot Professional
The last forty years have seen the rise of the personal computer, a device that has enabled ordinary individuals to access a tool that had been exclusive to laboratories and corporate technology centers. During this time, computers have become smaller, faster, more powerful, and more complex. So much has happened with so many products, in fact, that we often take for granted the uniqueness of our experiences with different machines over time.
The Interface Experience surveys some of the landmark devices in the history of personal computingand#151;including the Commodore 64, Apple Macintosh Plus, Palm Pilot Professional, and Microsoft Kinectand#151;and helps us to better understand the historical shifts that have occurred with the design and material experience of each machine. With its spiral-bound design reminiscent of early computer user manuals and thorough consideration of the cultural moment represented by each device, The Interface Experience is a one-of-a-kind tour of modern computing technology.
About the Author
Branden Hookway teaches in the Department of Architecture and the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. He is author of Pandemonium: The Rise of Predatory Locales in the Postwar World.