Interface Aesthetics – Aesthetics between the Code of the Computer and the Expression of the Interface.
As a new writing technology, the computer challenges the concept of aesthetics in a number of ways. These can be viewed from two related kinds of perspectives that can be outlined separately: (1) Perception-oriented perspectives, which suggest a digital inter-aesthetics and are in particular outwardly connected to an interaesthetic and digital media culture, and (2) structural and machine-oriented computer-scientific perspectives concerning the limits of aesthetics, sense perception and reading downward and inward in the direction of the machine, machine language, and the layers of programming. Taken as a whole, the project furthermore has an upward connection with a number of issues concerning the problematic of the work and the boundaries between, on the one hand, aesthetics and sense perception and, on the other, machine language and media technology.
The perception-oriented changes refer in particular to interface problems and the ways in which computer-based writing paves the way for an inter-aesthetic field where one can write with text, images, sound, movement and space – a field that is not, however, without antecedents (cp. issues concerning visual culture). In the project, this perspective will take the shape of an analysis of the interface as a cultural (and increasingly) artistic form that also functions outwardly in respect to digital culture. In addition to this, the interactive possibilities of the interface make a number of radical changes possible in our understanding of art as an autonomous work, both as regards (some of the) dimensions of the work potentially becoming undelimitable (a movement from work to network), and as regards the work becoming dynamic and reading/contemplation/analysis being supplemented by use (a movement from work to working tool).
The structural and machine-oriented computer-scientific changes are related to the fact that computer-based writing is machine readable and therefore has a hardware side to it that does not refer – and often isn’t accessible – to a human actor. This situation raises a number of questions regarding the relationship between machine-readable code and readable/material aesthetics, as well as regarding translation between the two levels – questions that are fundamental to digital aesthetics. Digital aesthetics touches on the unreadableness of machine code and its lack of sense perception, but at the same time it is a material, readable expression that in various ways carries its initial quality as hardware with it as digital traces. Digital media and aesthetics are thus formatted from a layer of hardware that is even starting to leave traces throughout digital culture. Net art, software art, hypertext, techno music, and so on reveal the cultural significance of structuring principles from computer science through literary-aesthetic stagings (e.g., the significance of the loop and the link as contemporary formal aesthetic techniques), and therefore also serve to critically acknowledge the structure and form of digital media. In brief: How are the invisible digital structures expressed, sensed and acknowledged through digital aesthetics, and how does the partial invisibility and the unreadableness of the primary form of expression, the code, influence contemporary aesthetics, culture and society?
The aim of the project is to specify the interface as an aesthetic form with consequences for research in and our understanding of aesthetics. The aim is furthermore to firmly contribute to establishing aesthetic perspectives on sense perception, reception, reading, representation, material and form as an unavoidable part of IT and research in this field. The hypothesis is that research in IT has lacked reflections on representation, reception and material/form, which has both inhibited the research and led to a series of problematic solutions. However, there are many indications that the IT field is currently opening up for cultural perspectives and at the same time has experienced the truth of the fact that the traditional dogmas are no longer universally valid and modern in regard to new applications, especially the cultural ones. Increasingly more experienced IT users are no longer primarily demanding user friendliness and transparency, but rather experiences, challenges and insights, which brings up aesthetics as an essential player in the IT field. The project will bring together my research within this field in the form of a book with the working title "The perspective of the interface – Art, literature and reality on the computer screen".