Alexander R. Galloway – The Interface Effect

Alexander R. Galloway

Polity, ISBN: 9780745662534, 200 pages, 2012, English
Galloway defines interfaces as “action-oriented processes.” They have “effects” (thus the title), “as they transform material states and are themselves effects of other things.” This theoretical work investigates how such transformations occur and the effects they enable. It starts by discussing the actuality of Manovich’s “Language of new media” book (sometimes with irony: “when Jean-Luc Godard becomes a plug-in, we must look beyond the Nouvelle Vague”) before continuing to explore how interfaces can be “unworkable” and manifesting their ambiguousness, which is sometimes related to the infinite interpretability of their signs and abstractions. The processes that interfaces enable are “autonomous zones of aesthetic activity,” and the author interprets them in a pure political way. On the other hand code and software are “functional” elements (a metaphor describing the desktop: “functional emanation of the source code”). The author also discusses the representability of data through graphical abstractions, analyses the crime TV series “24” and its use of database cliché in its plot, metaphorically “extracting data from organic bodies” during interrogations, and looks at racial coding in video games like World of Warcraft. Galloway’s theory is dense, referencing different philosophical discourses. It is sometimes interrupted by an informal style, but always poses open questions and leaves room for future development.