Tag Archives: five functions of interfaces

Poissant, L. (2007). The Passage from Material to Interface. In _Media Art Histories_, O. Grau, ed. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

Louise Poissant, PhD, philosophy, is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Université du Québec à Montreal. She has led the Groupe de recherche en arts médiatiques since 1989 and the Centre interuniversitaire en arts médiatiques since 2001. She researches art and biotechnologies, as well as how new technologies are used in performing arts.

“Now the renewal of art forms has materialized through a series of iconoclastic gestures, which as introduced new materials that were first borrowed from the industrial world or from everyday life and progressively from the domain of communications and technology” (229).

This search for new materials and immateriality, to Poissant, has led artists to reorganize into the following three camps. From the emergence of new materials we observe: (1)  artists committed to sharing their view of the world and related emotions, (2) those who perceive a diverse range of roles and choose from among them, and (3) those who reorganize their practice to advance the role of the spectator to status of co-creator in interactive works.

Language and speech are performances, actions. Per Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1953) language-games, to speak extends beyond self expression, it is to act. François Armengaud’s (1985), three notions of language pragmatics occur in art: (1) the act, where speaking goes beyond representation to trans- and inter-acting; (2) the context, which can further shape the discussion; and (3) the performance, which, once completed, verifies abilities.

There are six conductor interface categories in media arts; each one contributes to the conversion of viewer into participant. They have five functions, “alternatively extendible, revealing, rehabilitating, filtering, or the agent of synthetic integration” (240). Sensors receive and perceive data for the spectator-artwork interactivity. Recorders use binary data and allow for manipulations, sampling, etc. “Recording becomes a transferable memory, an extension of a faculty” (237). Actuators are robotics that give installations some capacity to interact autonomously with their environments. Transmitters close space and obviate time in telematic arts, such that the artworks themselves are located elsewhere. Diffusers are the projection devices from all eras (“magic lantern to interactive high-definition television” [239]). Finally, integrators, “automaton to cyborg” (239), simulate the living.

Poissant concludes that interactive programs unable to do what they can/ought must announce their shortcomings to the user at the fore. For planning, this responsibility to the user is well-taken.


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