An interface is a space of contact and interconnection. Thinking within but also beyond a media studies framework, we can understand our lives to be constantly mediated by interfaces of one form or another. They can be understood to serve as an intermediary between individuals and cultural objects, or alternatively, between experience and infrastructure. Interfaces mediate between a body and its environment, the private and public, subject and object. In each instance, the interface enables interaction and activity. Consider the movement from print to digital media, the structural design of spaces and buildings, or the format of an academic paper: as we move through the world we encounter and interact with a range of interfaces that delineate the possibilities of experience and knowledge in profound ways. As such, interfaces are cultural as well as political: they connect us to a matrix of histories and structures while their imbrication in power can afford and advance the needs of one group at the expense of another.
WITHIN AND BEYOND A DEFINITION
in· ter· face | \ ˈin-tər-ˌfās \
In a highly mediated world, the most immediate image of an interface is as a programmed screen or device that facilitates a connection between a real-time user and a digital non-user. Media ecologist Marshall McLuhan describes the interface as a place of interaction between two systems (1967). In computing, a mediator pattern defines an object in such a way as to establish a behavioural directive for its interaction with other objects. In each case, the interface becomes a site of communication and interaction, but also the
boundary that differentiates bodies, spaces, and phases.
We invite you to think through and beyond the somatechnic view of the interface, allowing perspectives that explore the material, aesthetic, affective, and political dimensions of the interfaces that give shape to contemporary experience.
[Affect and Materiality]
Interfaces mediate the aesthetic experience of cultural objects. Turning our focus towards the materiality of the written page, a digitised book, the cinema screen, or a streaming service, can inflect our reading of their content and our responses in illuminating ways. Affective experiences and attachments, for example, are intimately tied up with the materiality of these interfaces. Historicising these entanglements, we can ask, how are affective attachments to interfaces disrupted by medial changes (Pressman)? And how and why do we form attachments to some interfaces and not others (Felski)?
[Infrastructure and il/literacies]
Interfaces connect us to infrastructures and systems: front desks, government websites, a border checkpoint. In these instances, the interface acts as a threshold, and questions of access, dependence, and trust arise. Who can become adept at interacting with interfaces and by what means? How does the connection between interface and infrastructure shape the routes we take, and the experiences we make? Relatedly, il/literacies with interfaces are central to the formation of political communities. The role of the book and the newspaper in the emergence of nationalism provides a historic example (Anderson). Contemporary interfaces are thus entangled with local, national and global (pre-)formations in complex ways.
[Sense and ecology]
The touch of a palm on damp grass, the sounds of typing on a keyboard, the taste of something sweet at the tip of your tongue: what is the interface and what is becoming interfaced? These are questions that are at once ethical and political. Amanda Boetzkes draws attention to the inevitable aporia that exists between the elemental world and the representational frameworks that we bring to it. This symbolic world is also necessarily material in its implications, and thinking through the interface allows us to probe the kind
of relationships that we have constructed towards the elemental. How to move away from an incorporative logic that constructs “nature” as mere “tap” (resources) and “sink” (waste) (Moore)? Artistic practices that create “receptive surfaces” provide one such example of an
ethical turn towards the elemental that aims to acknowledge and uphold fundamental alterity (Boetzkes).
We encourage submissions relating to the themes above, as well as, but not limited to, the following:
● Engagements with cultural objects that critically explore the concept of the interface.
● Reflections on the interconnections between genre, narrative modes, and the aesthetic experience enabled by different interfaces.
● Platforms and streaming services: economic imperatives and aesthetic possibilities.
● Il/literacies, agency, and the politics of access.
● The interface as a verb: what does it mean to interface with space, others, the world, and beyond?
● Engagements with social interface theory and German media theory (Kittler et al.)
● Meaning-making and translatability: the interface as a vessel for signs.
● Epistemology and/of the interface: the interface as a hermeneutic tool.
● Interfaces and perception of self/identity formation.
● Biometrics and technology in border and domestic policing.
● Interfaces in contemporary work environments and labour practices.
● Interfaces in architecture, design, and AI.
● Knowledge production and interdisciplinarity.
● Devices, screen culture and history.
We invite extended proposals (500-1000 words) that follow the MLA formatting and referencing style to be submitted to email@example.com by December 5th 2021. Following conditional acceptance, an initial draft version (3000 words) would be due
two weeks after the acceptance email. The editing process will take place over winter and early spring 2022. If you have any questions regarding your submission, do not hesitate to contact us. Editing and peer review guidelines will be sent to authors individually upon acceptance of their submission.
Guidelines for creative submissions are more flexible and can be finished works, but please keep in mind spatial limitations: there is usually room for one longer or two shorter pieces in the print version. A sense of the formatting possibilities can be garnered from previous
issues (open-access pdf versions are available on our website).
We also accept submissions for our website all year round. We encourage a variety of styles and formats, including short-form essays (around 2000 words), reviews, experimental writing and multimedia. These can engage with the theme of the upcoming issue but are not limited to it. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects that you would like to have published: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soapbox Journal website
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso Books, 1983.
Boetzkes, Amanda. The Ethics of Earth Art. University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Felski, Rita. Hooked: Art and Attachment. University of Chicago Press, 2020.
McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage. Bantam Books, 1967.
Moore, Jason. Capitalism in the Web of Life. Verso Books, 2015.
Pressman, Jessica. Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age. Columbia University Press. 2020.