Synopses & Reviews
Interfaces are back, or perhaps they never left. The familiar Socratic conceit from the Phaedrus
, of communication as the process of writing directly on the soul of the other, has returned to center stage in today's discussions of culture and media. Indeed Western thought has long construed media as a grand choice between two kinds of interfaces. Following the optimistic path, media seamlessly interface self and other in a transparent and immediate connection. But, following the pessimistic path, media are the obstacles to direct communion, disintegrating self and other into misunderstanding and contradiction. In other words, media interfaces are either clear or complicated, either beautiful or deceptive, either already known or endlessly interpretable.
Recognizing the limits of either path, Galloway charts an alternative course by considering the interface as an autonomous zone of aesthetic activity, guided by its own logic and its own ends: the interface effect. Rather than praising user-friendly interfaces that work well, or castigating those that work poorly, this book considers the unworkable nature of all interfaces, from windows and doors to screens and keyboards. Considered allegorically, such thresholds do not so much tell the story of their own operations but beckon outward into the realm of social and political life, and in so doing ask a question to which the political interpretation of interfaces is the only coherent answer.
Grounded in philosophy and cultural theory and driven by close readings of video games, software, television, painting, and other images, Galloway seeks to explain the logic of digital culture through an analysis of its most emblematic and ubiquitous manifestation – the interface.
"Of vital importance to digital research; it should be included in any studies of the digital or mediated domain."Media International Australia
"The Interface Effect
fuses sophisticated contemporary theory with a detailed knowledge of the technics and techniques of digital media. Galloway is an important voice, and the book is sure to have a wide uptake among those interested in new media theory and contemporary aesthetics."Jodi Dean, author of Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive
"Employing a sustained, powerful methodology, The Interface Effect sparkles with original insights. Galloway is interested not only in the effects that interfaces have, but also in them as themselves the results of cultural, technological, economic, and political forces. This double movement provides a way to connect the historical with the political, and the technological with both. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in new media studies, contemporary theory, and digital technologies."
N. Katherine Hayles, Professor of Literature, Duke University, and author of How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis
“Feed-Forward is an ambitious and remarkably exciting take on contemporary media read through Alfred North Whiteheads philosophy. Hansen builds an extremely inspiring study that is rich with implications for philosophers, media theorists, and anyone wanting to understand the microtemporal basis of contemporary culture. Feed-Forward opens up a range of fresh ideas.”
“Feed-Forward is a major work, original and highly important. Hansens revisionary interpretation of Whiteheads thought is a deep, thorough, and learned one.”
“Feed-Forward embarks on a rigorously philosophical appraisal of Whitehead in relation to our contemporary socio-technical milieu and in the process unfolds a remarkable constellation of interlocking theses about human experience. A Hansen book is always an anticipated event, but Feed-Forward is truly extraordinary. It fundamentally alters the terms of the debate about human perception and cognition in twenty-first-century media environments.”
“A major contribution to the field. This is a potentially canonic book for specialists in philosophy, ethics, and media studies. . . . Essential.”
Even as media in myriad forms increasingly saturate our lives, we nonetheless tend to describe our relationship to it in terms from the twentieth century: we are consumers of media, choosing to engage with it. In Feed-Forward
, Mark B. N. Hansen shows just how outmoded that way of thinking is: media is no longer separate from us but has become an inescapable part of our very experience of the world.
Drawing on the speculative empiricism of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, Hansen reveals how new media call into play elements of sensibility that greatly affect human selfhood without in any way belonging to the human. From social media to data-mining to new sensor technologies, media in the twenty-first century work largely outside the realm of perceptual consciousness, yet at the same time inflect our every sensation. Understanding that paradox, Hansen shows, offers us a chance to put forward a radically new vision of human becoming, one that enables us to reground the human in a non-anthropocentric view of the world and our experience in it.
About the Author
Alexander R. Galloway is Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Computer as a Mode of Mediation
I. The Unworkable Interface
II. Software and Ideology
III. Are Some Things Unrepresentable?
IV. Disingenuous Informatics
Postscript: We Are the Gold Farmers