Public Interfaces – Introduction


Emerging from ongoing research around interface criticism in the Digital Aesthetics Research Center and Center for Digital Urban Living, the aim of this newspaper is to broaden the topic to encompass the changing concept of the ’public’. The newspaper is organized into three thematic strands: ART as public interface; the public interfaces of URBAN space; the public interface and CAPITAL.

Like others, we think the interface is a cultural paradigm. In the case of computers, interfaces mediate between humans and machines, as well as between machines and between humans. Interfaces thus involve an exchange between data and culture. In this sense, the computer interface can be described as a cultural interface combining cultural content (images, text, movies, sound) with machine/media control (buttons, menus, filters, etc.) and networks (the Internet). As a cultural paradigm the interface affects not only our creative production and presentation of the world but also our perception of the world.

We recognize that in the past decade, interfaces have been expanding from the graphical user interface of a computer to meet the needs of different new technologies, uses, cultures and contexts: they are mobile, networked, ubiquitous, and embedded in the environment and architecture, part of regeneration agendas and new aesthetic and cultural practices. In other words, we aim to investigate these new interfaces that affect relations between public and private realms, and generate new forms urban spaces and activities, new forms of exhange and new forms of creative production.

The newspaper brings together researchers within diverse fields – across aesthetics, cultural theory, architecture and urban studies – united by the need to understand public interfaces and the possible paradigmatic changes they pose to these fields.

Although our starting point derives from a concept of the public informed by network theory and the social practices around computing, we aim to expand this view in recognition of the ways in which contemporary power and control are structured.

The following questions operate as points of departure:

  • Can the public interface be used as a useful concept for understanding changing relations between public and private realms within aesthetic practices?
  • Does the public interface offer a way of examining relational aesthetics, the cultural regeneration agenda and public art?
  • Does the public interface provide new understandings of the relationship between creative production, the free market sphere and its critique?
  • How does the possible dissolution of the public and private spheres relate to bio-politics and contemporary forms of power?
  • Does the public interface suggest new perceptions, borders or even the dissolution of borders between the centre and peripheries of urban settings?
  • How do the experimentation and developments in the culture of  software reflect emergent and self-organizing public actions?

Christian Ulrik Andersen, Geoff Cox & Jacob Lund / Plymouth University and Aarhus University.

[The newspaper and event was kindly supported by Center for Digital Urban Living, Digital Aesthetics Research Centre, and The Doctoral School in Arts and Aesthetics, Aarhus University, Denmark.]

All articles derive from an initial conference and PhD workshop held in January 2011, at Aarhus University. Papers  and further comments are available on the website.