Invisible and Unmediated Meta-Interfaces: Simulation and Implementation of the Physical World

Estefanía Tocado

 As Leo Manovich affirms, the permanent extendibility of the computer metamedium has generated a software epistemology and a computerized society (337).  In a society where everyone owns a smart phone, a laptop, or a tablet, the use of these gadgets is fully integrated into our everyday life, any time and anywhere.  Therefore, as Janet Murray states, participation in digital media increasingly means social participation (56).  That can be clearly seen in the development of social spaces such as Facebook as well as other spaces such as digital newspapers or shopping online.  The need to have a digital artifact that grants us access to that virtual world is also letting us interactively participate in our society.  It seems to me that one of the reasons why Apple products have been so widely popular, besides their great marketing campaign and polished design, is because they enable the interface and the manipulation to appear as being very intuitive, unmediated, invisible, and transparent.  Janet Murray affirms that the computer is a participatory medium where the users expect to manipulate digital artifacts and make things happen in response to their actions (55).   

What makes Apple products so attractive is that this apparent conceptual inertia is achieved through the properties of the media software, their interface, the very tools that make it possible for the user to access, navigate, create, and modify media documents (Manovich 335).  This accessibility and impression of being a transparent medium is based on the fact that the computer metamedium contains two different types of media:  simulations of previous physical media extended with new properties (iBook) or new computational media (3D).  Apple laptops as well as iPads and iPhones rely very much on simulating previous culturally integrated systems, such as a book or a calendar for example, and implementing them with additional media-specific software that allows the user to perform more actions in the virtual medium than he would be able to do in the “real world.”  Another interesting feature is that the user could be able to share data externally from his calendar with other gadgets through the iCloud or internally with other programs.  Murray affirms that computational artifacts do not exist as fixed entities but as changing and altered sets of bits governed by conditional rules (53).  These sets of rules perform numerous combinatorial processes but the user, most of the times, continues having the feeling that the medium has disappeared.  Therefore, as Bolter and Grusin point out, computer designers search to provide a virtual experience that is “interfaceless” where no recognizable tools appear so the user moves in the virtual space naturally as he would do in the physical world (23).  I would suggest that Apple has taken this approach to its highest degree moving away from engineering and function driven interface to a natural and logically deducted connection between the human being and the digital artifact generating the illusion of immediacy and transparency.

 Works Cited

Bolter Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding Media. Cambridge,

MA: The MIT Press, 2000.

Manovich, Leo. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Murray, Janet. Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.