The interface responds and embodies the economic logic of the system in which you enroll. It is a political device.

  1. Do not use any free (as in free beer) service for a while. Who does that service really serve?

2. Use your search box to make your statements instead of searching something, they will be suggested to other users. i.e. "I am fed up of google tracking me".

3. Remember that Ronald Reagan once said, when he visited Nintendo Headquarters: "We'll have soldiers in every bedroom"

An unfortunate truth of any software or service is that it becomes subject to economic services. We tend to think of open source software as a digital commons, offering "natural" infinite benefit to all users. In truth, open source software must be developed, usually in the developers spare time. If the software is being heavily developed, one must wonder the reason it is able to achieve such activity (is a company funding its development? If so, why?). There is nothing inherently malicious about free technology, but one should always consider the motives of its funding and development, or consider what is the product being sold.

sovid – CriticalInterface

"An interface is designed within a cultural context and in turn designs cultural contexts."

Some assignments for this tenet:

  1. Visit 4Chan and make a friend
  2. Think about yourself as being from a different culture and check if the interface works equal to you.
  3. Visit websites from other cultures (Where are you from? ...) and check if the interface works equal to you.

The idea of struggling with a foreign interface (aside from the obvious barrier of language) is interesting to me because the context in which an interface was made matters. For better or for worse, certain interfaces are built with a specific demographic in mind. This is the case in many AAA video games. With content being created for the common straight, white male, video game interfaces reflect ideas that would appeal to that audience, and in turn enforces a certain type of culture in video games.


  1. The interface exists in the crease between space and time; it is a device and simultaneously a situation. It is rendered (updated under thoughtful conditions) and emergent (joining into something new).


This tenet was the most interesting, mostly because of how it was worded - it seemed to imply some supernatural or cosmic force necessary in creating an interface. The idea of it being simultaneously two different things once again brought to mind the principle of Schrodinger's Cat, specifically how it is not distinguishable as either thing until it is utilized in some way, and does not truly show its capabilities until the user "performs" either it or with it. It also emphasizes the work put into making an interface, such as the research behind whether the physics will work, the final presentation, and its practicality, and thus it is both rendered and emergent. The first example of this that comes to mind is the telematic art where people can interact with other people from almost the other side of the globe through a simple screen and some complex programming. 

lubar – CriticalInterface

4. The interface collects traces: traces and remains of all agents/agencies which converge in it.

"Keep sending the same portrait if someone asks for it. You will never look older and, at some point, nobody will recognize you in real life. (1+cR)"

"Block the GPS of your phone. If you need to find a place, ask someone. Things will happen. (1-cH)"

"Use a notebook to write down your bookmarks, your contacts, your searches. (1+cA)"

I find this one particularly interesting because upon first reading it, I found the idea of collecting traces as something poetic and beautiful, a record of existence on an interface, a gathering of data for the self. However upon reading the propositions, I found that the lean of the traces was towards that of surveillance, the idea of someone else watching you, gathering data about you. The propositions offer ways to hide from the interface, and to leave as few traces as possible. They parallel acts of exchange with someone trusted and someone entirely unknown, placing them on the same level of action, and encourage the act of deliberately donating or presenting all personal data in unconventional ways, to point to the fact, that it's already out there, and not private.


I think the assignment number 4 could illustrate the the topic/ tenet number 10. "The interface uses metaphors that create illusions" and number 7. "The interface responds and embodies the economic logic of the system in which you enroll. It is a political device." Assignment number 4 is asking the user to give up their personal device and everything that it contains. By going through the steps of assignment number 4, one can become hyper aware of how an interface creates illusions when you are physically taken away from that digital space and forced to consume non digital materials and slow down the normal pace. By limiting and letting go of the digital interactions, you can also become aware of the economic and political logic of the system.


9. Can we make the invisible visible? The more present interfaces are in our lives, the less we perceive them.

Something I feel like I work with a lot as a designer in the Environments track with a focus in the digital world is trying to help users / people focus on the almost "invisible world" that is our internet. How can we see this? For example, take an online delivery service -- how can we design a space to help people see this visually rather than just something that exists in the physical world? I do agree that the more that we rely on interfaces, the more we will stop seeing them as physical spaces, though they most definitely still are and these digital worlds are important towards helping us understand / manifest a physical space around us, even if we don't really see that anymore.


2. (To) interface is a verb (I interface, you interface ...). The interface occurs, is action.

Notable propositions:

  • Be gentle with your keyboard, after 70 years typewriting your fingers will appreciate it.
  • 'View source' of a webpage, and print. Replace each verb you do not understand, by a verb you are familiar with. Read the text out loud.
  • Do not click today.

I'm interested in the second tenet because it frames the interface in terms of verbs rather than a physical or visual artifact that users interact with. The interface emphasizes what a person can do--and conversely what a person can't do. In this way, the interface provides an insidious way to obscure what can and cannot be achieved within a system.

The last proposition "do not click today" reminds me of this dilemma the most. As a CS student, I'm anecdotally familiar with a preference among the technically savvy for command line interfaces over GUIs. While both provide an avenue to do, computers were truly designed with command line interfaces, hence interacting with the command line tends to be much more powerful than interacting with the GUI. I think this is a clear example of how the presentation of the interface has powerful implications for what a user can do and how much power a user has within a system.


10. The interface uses metaphors that create illusions: I am free, I can go back, I have unlimited memory, I am anonymous, I am popular, I am creative, it's free, it's neutral, it is simple, it is universal. Beware of illusions!


Imagine your desktop is a kitchen, a garden, a hospital, a computer. Now, imagine it using no metaphor.

Call 5 random facebook friends and ask them for money.

Perform Ctrl+Z on real life. Invent new gestures to bring digital possibilities to oral conversations.

Some of my favorite tenets were 3, 7, 9, and 13, but 10 was my absolute favorite. I first realized the extent to which interfaces create illusion back when iOS switched from skeumorphism to flat design in 2012, and it's been weirdly haunting to think about ever since. On one level, illusions include how the Contacts app  on iOS used to look like a Rolodex with realistic colors, textures, and sound design. That was a visual illusion that imbued the interface with a sense of productivity, utility, and authority. Now the Contacts app is a matte white Apple Interface (TM) like any other, but this is another kind of illusion as described in the tenet -- one of "free"-ness, "neutrality", "simplicity", and "universality." In truth, it is not any of these for everyone anywhere (not even 'simple'! Maybe it's simple for me, but it might not be for an elderly person in Mongolia.)

But it goes beyond one app on one OS to the entire collective understanding of how an interface should work. The 'trash', the idea of 'documents' and the 'folders' they're stored in, and especially 'windows' and the 'desktop' are such fascinating metaphors that were invented in very specific contexts by very specific (probably white straight male) software engineers in the '80s (other than Susan Kare, she is cool.) The ability to "go back" or 'refresh' your situation, the idea that you have established another degree of human relationship by becoming 'friends' on Facebook, it's all an illusion.

As an aspiring (sort of) UX designer, I want to know how I can use my deeper understanding of how interfaces are constructed to make art that is critical of them.


Critical Interface Manifesto, Tenet 11. The standard calls for a universal subject and generates processes of homogenization, but reduces the complexity and diversity. What is not standard?

I thought this one was especially interesting because it actually linked to my Looking Outwards subject in one of the propositions: Surf the web closing your eyes. Weird because the link is kind of about surfing the web using only your eyes.

I take the tenet to be focused mainly on diversity of interfaces, and mostly on diversity of accessibility options for people who can't use or have difficulty using the "standard" visual-based, keyboard and mouse interface. This is really important, and that's also why I found Eyewriter to be so cool. But the tenet isn't just about accessibility for people with disabilities. It's also about a diversity of ways of presenting information, regardless of the sensory aspect of the interface. For example, if you consider the education system to be an interface in some sense, it's very limited to the "standard" way of learning. Someone might have no disabilities and respond well to visual interfaces, but they might not respond well to the structure of the "interface;" that is, they might not learn much from lectures and tests and homework.

Diversity in all things is necessary to allow the most possible people to enjoy, benefit from, and make use of that thing. I agree with this tenet that computer interfaces seem to lack that diversity, although I think other interfaces, like books (audiobooks, Braille, horror, nonfiction, picture books, etc.), are doing much better. Maybe that's because the information behind other interfaces is simpler, or because computer interfaces haven't been around as long.

zapra – CriticalInterface

4. The interface collects traces: traces and remains of all agents/agencies which converge in it.

  • Use a notebook to write down your bookmarks, your contacts, your searches.
  • Block the GPS of your phone. If you need to find a place, ask someone. Things will happen.
  • Use your first Nokia 3210 phone again (try not to get too nostalgic about it).
  • Become an Open Data Donor. Only give data deliberately and make sure it stays Open.
  • Connect your computer to a projector and share your screen with your neighborhood. Get used to it, that's our average privacy level.
  • Make a screenshot of the application you are currently using, and print it. Pin it to your bedroom wall.

I was interested in tenet 4 because of its implication that the interface is constantly documenting our interactions. While I assumed the manifesto meant that this is simply a critical part of  the interface, the examples frame this as a hostile occurrence. With digital interfaces encroaching more and more in our lives, we must maintain our awareness of them and their observations of us. Satirically, the assignments provided focus on maintaining control in an omnipresent expanse of data collection services. I find it interesting that they encourage maintaining control by either submitting yourself willingly to a zero privacy reality, or going completely off the grid to prevent any traces of you from existing.

Ironically, purchasing an Amazon Alexa with full acknowledgement of the data mining potential would be completely in line with these assignments. While our smartphones are already listening to us, many people are still convinced that they are still respecting our privacy, at the very least when not in use. By installing a microphone device designed to listen to you all the time, we take back some control with the voluntary sacrifice of our privacy.