From GUI to Embodied interface: Who is next? — Wency

From GUI to Embodied interface: Who is next? 

From 506 we have learnt the concept of interface which serves as a boundary of two separate components or systems that enable them to interact with each other. Partly being considered as a channel for transmission, media have been considered for a long time as an interface between human and different contents. According to Dourish’s interface paradigm, there are four modes of interface (i.e. electrical, symbolic, textual and graphical). Today, as the whole digital industry is keep trying to make everything more human readable and user friendly, the graphical interface, think about every icon on the screen on your computer for instance, also known as GUI, is being more and more important providing the visual metaphor functions.

According to Manovich, media today is becoming new media where everything presented on the GUI, for instance, are computable, the visual metaphor of icons resembling the real object, the pattern recognition, would all be broken down into the smallest controllable unit of digital display called pixel and then transferred into numerical representation for machine to understand and manipulate (Manovich, ,2011, p.20-27). Manovich also mentions the variability as a property of new media where users can customize automatically the media composition as well as to create elements themselves (Manovich, 2011, p.37). GUI, on the other hand, is a conceptual model aligned with changes and development of hardware, the traditional unidirectional impact, therefore, is transferred into bi-directional or even multi-directional network.

On the one hand, technology is immersed into the development of media to change the way we interact with contents, on the other hand, just as professor Irvine said in the video: we need to think about media and mediation beyond channels of transmission (Irvine, 2018). As I’ve mentioned in the above paragraph about conceptual model, the HCI (human computer interaction) means that we, as individuals living in this social, economic, cultural and political world, are also interacting and shaping the technology, or digital interface. The technology in the whole system of mediation are never autonomous, they come together through a large amount of policies, institutions, law, etc., power, authority, social factors are implemented into new technology which is keep reconfiguring (Irvine, 2018). In Bolter and Grusin’s work about remediation, they mentioned the example of visual reality the goal of which is let users forget about the computer interface, the interface thus becomes transparent, or erased (Bolter & Grusin, 2000, p.22). Similar case goes to the E-book which is mentioned by professor Irvine in the video, the goal of which is somehow let the user feel as if they are reading a real printed book. The user experience in the VR industry, provides feedback and thus shapes the industry due to the industry’s economic and business interest. In the latter example, we can also see new artifacts as an interface to invisible historical dependency where people have experienced a previous technology (the printed book in this case) and become dependent, or better, lock-in (the concept is derived from Latour) to the previous technology that they sometimes refuse to transfer into a new version of technology (Irvine, 2018, p.9).

Today, the elements being interfaced is increasingly growing where our location, context, gesture, body movement, voice, etc. can all be captured and computed. The embodied interface, as a new stage of interface after graphical interface, emerges also with social, cultural, political and economic factors behind it. For example, the Kinect captures the users’ motions and almost simultaneously display them onto the screen. The interesting part of Kinect, for example, is that if you are playing a virtual tennis game, you will even feel the power of heating the ball, the sound simulation tracks and matches so perfectly with the movement that users’ sometimes even feel like they are playing a real game. Here we are again back to the double logic of remediation. On the one hand, the development of new media provides us new ways of interacting with every single content in the real world, but on the other hand, such mediation, or according to Debray, the transmission which stands for changes along time, is always affected by historical development: the rules of the game, the display of the settings, the speed, power measurement and sound effect, are all designed to resemble the original tennis game at maximum. Kinect, or better, every modern media or digital interface we can imagine, is a combination of spatial communication and temporal transmission (Debray, p.3). The development of media, the mediation of media itself, are thus happening under the sociotechnical system where the development is always non-linear but at the same time having a more predictable direction.



  1. Bolter, J, D. & Grusin, R. (2000). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  2. Debray, R. (2000). Transmitting Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.
  3. Irvine, M. (2018). Introduction to Media and Technical Mediation.
  4. Kinect sensor with Kinect adventures! (n.d.) Retrieved March 21st, 2018, from
  5. Manovich, L. (2001). The language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.