Unpack Media Interfaces: The Interaction Between Interface and Our Mind & Its Complexity

With a desire to enter the web product design field in my future career, I was especially interested in our discussion of the media interface in two weeks ago. Galloway made an ambitious argument about the effect of interface: he does not view the interface a stable object, but a multiplicity of processes; he does not want to study interface as a “thing”, but a technique of mediation or interaction.

When I open a book discussing the new media interface we access everyday, it mostly tells the narrow sense of the interface, for example the picture below asks us to focus on different product design steps including design presentation, user data collection, model test, and interface feedback. These points appear to be practical but superficial to me, since the relationship between the software and ideology, the complexity behind this design process is rarely being explored. Why the interface of Google homepage stays nearly the same across so many years? I believe the answer is much complicated than “because it’s clean and simple”. What does it mean when “Photoshop” becomes a verb? In my essay, I want to discover how interface shapes our cognition and ideology, and in turn how our understanding of the world decides the way that new media interface is designed. Lev Manovich might call this the “poetics” of interface.

Now for me the biggest problem is to find several certain cases as the entry of my topic, otherwise it will get too broad. And I need to get my ideas more into shape so that I can make a clear point of view.

(Screen Capture from http://www.zurb.com/apps)

Reading Notes:

An interface is not something that appears before you but rather is a gateway that opens up and allows passage to some place beyond.  —- Galloway, P30

An interface, for Galloway, is “not a thing”; it is “always an effect” — a technique of mediation or interaction. The conceptual move here departs from the object-centered approach taken by critics such as McLuhan, for whom media objects are technological extensions of the human body…    — Patrick Jagoda

An interface, Galloway argues, is not a stable object; it is a multiplicity of processes. In other words, an interface is not merely a laptop LCD or a television screen. It is not the Windows 8 operating system or Mac OS X. It is not a hypermediated heads-up display of the contemporary videogame with its myriad forms of information …   — Patrick Jagoda

Affordances are the allowable actions specified by the environment coupled with the properties of the organism. In distributed cognition, affordances can be considered as distributed representations extended across the environment and the organism.  —- Zhang, Jiajie, P337


Important Concepts:



Meaning making



Distributed Cognition


New Media


Product Design


Resources that give me inspiration and help me explore this topic:

Alexander GallowayThe Interface Effect (Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity, 2012). Excerpt from Chapter 1, “The Unworkable Interface.”

Patrick Jagoda, “The Next Level: Alexander R. Galloway’s ‘The Interface Effect’.” LA Review of Books, 1.25.2013.


Lev ManovichSoftware Takes Command (ebook version, 2008), excerpt, attend especially to the section on “Cultural Software”.

Andy ClarkSupersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2008), excerpts

Living with Complexity Donald A. Norman

Don’t make me think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug

Zhang, Jiajie, and Vimla L. Patel. “Distributed Cognition, Representation, and Affordance.” Pragmatics & Cognition 14, no. 2 (July 2006): 333-341.