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“Perhaps today no discipline has more expertise in interface design than architecture, and perhaps someday no discipline will ultimately have more expertise in architecture than some expanded interdisciplinary mode of interface design, because for the City layer, computation is not privileged over cement. The interfacial operations of software and architecture should not be categorized as two distinct economies, but as mutually involved sides of corresponding governing effects, sometimes symbiotic and sometimes antagonistic in their relations. However, under the interfacial regimes of planetary computation, programs that we may have asked architecture to host in the past are now assignments for software, with the latter not only absorbing but sometimes hollowing out the former as well. Meeting rooms become chat windows, store shelves become online databases, places are geotagged, organizational hierarchies become firewalled User access configurations, and so on. This transformation doesn’t only dissipate architecture’s authority (though in some instances, it does exactly that). Nevertheless, because architecture works as collective interface to urban space and because computation draws our attention to interfaciality per se and its contested governance of systems, then how architectural design will continue to enforce programmatic authority becomes an increasingly pressing question. Architecture’s ability to represent systems (idealized, abstracted, mythical, logistical) exceeds any physical mediation of space, and extends its reach beyond the semiotic play of the GUI at hand. At the same time, a shift in design discourse away from symbolization, toward direct material effect, and on political positions that are imminent in a structure’s postural embodiment in location, also has to be seen as a disciplinary reaction to the challenges posed by software’s virtualizations of architecture’s heavier interfaces. It is a way of taking stock of what is left.” (Benjamin H. Bratton, “The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty”, 166)

Interface Design

1. “Interfaces are thresholds. They connect and disconnect in equal measure, structuring flows by combining and segmenting it, enabling it or frustrating it, bridging unlike forms over vast distances and subdividing that which would otherwise congeal on its own.” (228)

2. “[Interfaces] necessarily limit the full range of possible interactions in a specific and arbitrary way. Any interface, because it is a specific summary, must eliminate or make invisible a whole range of other equally valid possible interactions. […] Only because they reduce and simplify complex systems can they make it possible for people to use those systems at a systematic scale and realize value from them.” (221)

3. “[Interfaces] must reduce and conceal the complexity of the processes they represent.” That reduction is also necessary to their ability to function as broadly useful social tools. (234)

4. “Further, as interfaces are reductive in how they compress information—in their foregrounding of certain things and not others—they are also inevitably ‘ideological.’ Their reduction toward resolution is doctrinal.” (234)

5. “While interfaces fix and limit possibilities, they simplify them in different ways for different Users. How interfaces mediate between people, things, and the technical layers lower in the Stack also depends on how a User perceives the natural world and is already able to make some sense of it. For example, if those Users are machines or other inanimate objects, then the interfaces through which they recognize a structure may be specialized sensors, codes, switches, or chemical surfaces. If the User is a more phenomenologically intuitive subject, such as a human, then the exact semantics of interfaces (perhaps icons, symbols, indexes, and diagrams) work not only to synthesize some affordances of that structure, but also to narrativize the meaning of possible actions that someone might take.” (219)

6. “Interfaces are dream worlds, however restricted. They are also the real techniques by which power in inscribed by and for the imagined communities of geopolitical intrigue.” (124)

7. “Any given interface may have one effect at one site, just as it has the opposite effect at another. Its performance—who, what, and how it interfaces—may vary widely depending on circumstances.” (228)

8. “As they multiply, interfaces assemble into interfacial regimes that present and enforce synthetic diagrammatic total images of how the entire platform can work for a User who perceives that platform through the grammar of that same regime.” (297)

9. “Interfacial regimes focus all mediation onto and into key switch points, but like any other media, they are not only conduits of information; they also produce information by translating and relaying it from there to here.” (230)

10. “By using one regime exclusively, the User collaborates in that regime’s larger program. Interfacial regimes are thereby also totality machines, both describing linkages and making projective claims over them. Two alternate interfacial totalities may compete to describe the same site, User or process, and the mingling of overlapping totalities brings some degree of noise and ambiguity.” (373)

11. “The interface is not only a visual representation of an aspirational totality; it is an image of a totality that when acted on also instrumentally affects the world.” (229)

12. “No one interface interfaces in a vacuum: a fact regularly overlooked by normative interaction design methodologies that over-individuate Users, forever atomized and psychologized, instead of seeing them as part of larger and less frozen subject-apparatus networks.” (167)

“Software Design as Architecture: Interface Design”, design research project. Based on the analysis of “The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty” by Benjamin H. Bratton and contains quotes from the book. Other research includes the words of Bjarke Ingels, Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. By Sofya Tuymedova. First published: September 2020. See also: “What do we mean by ‘Program’?”