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“Perhaps today no discipline has more expertise in interface design than architecture, and perhaps someday no discipline will ultimately have more expertise in architecture than some expanded interdisciplinary mode of interface design, because for the City layer, computation is not privileged over cement. The interfacial operations of software and architecture should not be categorized as two distinct economies, but as mutually involved sides of corresponding governing effects, sometimes symbiotic and sometimes antagonistic in their relations. However, under the interfacial regimes of planetary computation, programs that we may have asked architecture to host in the past are now assignments for software, with the latter not only absorbing but sometimes hollowing out the former as well. Meeting rooms become chat windows, store shelves become online databases, places are geotagged, organizational hierarchies become firewalled User access configurations, and so on. This transformation doesn’t only dissipate architecture’s authority (though in some instances, it does exactly that). Nevertheless, because architecture works as collective interface to urban space and because computation draws our attention to interfaciality per se and its contested governance of systems, then how architectural design will continue to enforce programmatic authority becomes an increasingly pressing question. Architecture’s ability to represent systems (idealized, abstracted, mythical, logistical) exceeds any physical mediation of space, and extends its reach beyond the semiotic play of the GUI at hand. At the same time, a shift in design discourse away from symbolization, toward direct material effect, and on political positions that are imminent in a structure’s postural embodiment in location, also has to be seen as a disciplinary reaction to the challenges posed by software’s virtualizations of architecture’s heavier interfaces. It is a way of taking stock of what is left.” (Benjamin H. Bratton, “The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty”, 166)

Interfaces are thresholds. They connect and disconnect in equal measure, structuring flows by combining and segmenting it, enabling it or frustrating it, bridging unlike forms over vast distances and subdividing that which would otherwise congeal on its own. (228)

Interfaces necessarily limit the full range of possible interactions in a specific and arbitrary way. Any Interface, because it is a specific summary, must eliminate or make invisible a whole range of other equally valid possible interactions. It is only because they reduce and simplify complex systems can they make it possible for people to use those systems at a systematic scale and realize value from them. (221)

Interfaces must reduce and conceal the complexity of the processes they represent (and as indicated above, that reduction is also necessary to their ability to function as broadly useful social tools). (234)

Further, as Interfaces are reductive in how they compress information — in their foregrounding of certain things and not others — they are also inevitably “ideological” in how they realize particular strategies for organizing their publics. Such Interfaces are not only maps of flows as they exist according to whatever logic of reduction they invoke; they are also tools that reproject and extend their conceptual gathering of relations back out onto the world. (234, 46)

While interfaces fix and limit possibilities, they simplify them in different ways for different Users. How interfaces mediate between people, things, and the technical layers below also depends on how a User perceives the natural world and is already able to make some sense of it. For example, if those Users are machines or other inanimate objects, then the interfaces through which they recognize a structure may be specialized sensors, codes, switches, or chemical surfaces. If the User is a more phenomenologically intuitive subject, such as a human, then the exact semantics of interfaces (perhaps icons, symbols, indexes, and diagrams) work not only to synthesize some affordances of that structure, but also to narrativize the meaning of possible actions that someone might take. (219)

The proposed design of a social organization in space is a techno-anthropological diagram of work, play, violence, and collective phenotypical embodiment, all modeled as functions of particular strategies of sorting, partition, enveloping, interfacing, planning, and sectioning. To posit a particular arrangement of activities, of collective access points — of privacy and subjectivity and agency — is to set the stage for some desired organizational-behavioral outcome. (165-166)

The formal politics of websites/architectural structures is characterized by this apparent paradox between a strict and invariable mechanism (autocracy of means) providing for an emergent heterogeneity of self-directed uses (liberty of ends). (47)

Like the hard envelopes, websites are also sites of convergence between function and representation, linking program and figuration, hard utility & necessity and aesthetics. These hard and soft systems intermingle and swap roles, some becoming relatively “harder” or “softer” according to seemingly arcane conditions. (167, 11)

As logistical channels link the unlikely arcs of things, they also enroll the User not only into an aesthetic of logistics but also logistics itself as an aesthetic ideal. It has to be seen also as a kind of rhetorical and stylistic system suggesting, if not promising, closure. (231)

Interfaces are dream worlds, however restricted. They are also the real techniques by which power in inscribed by and for the imagined communities of geopolitical intrigue. (124)

As they multiply, Interfaces assemble into interfacial regimes that present and enforce synthetic diagrammatic total images of how that entire “world” can work for a User who perceives it through the grammar of that same regime. (197)

Interfaces operate in relation with the specific patterns of Users’ physical movement, gathered up into secondary images, which then in turn contributes to how other interfaces will or will not interact with a given User and enforce the logics of a given regime. (340)

The performance of governance both centralizes and decentralizes interfacial regimes, one informing the other, and in this, the spinal contours of a global social morphology unfold along with them, their topological convulsions inextricable from the infrastructures with which they evolve and through which they are expressed. (232)

It is essential for any political-geographical regime to be able to identify the individual sites, fields, instances, and actors within its jurisdictional field, such that any of these would be able to send and receive messages from the others as part of a regular and governable flow of information through space. The territories of addressed instances are named, organized, and made coherent and meaningful to their Users by the Interfaces that turn maps of addressable options into practical instruments. (193, 154)

Interfacial systems are also grids and sometimes work in a similar way as urban grids. The lines they draw, both linking and segmenting, crisscross one another in regular patterns and circumscribe individual cells within their own particular telescopic logics of the global and the local. (229)

The lines of segmentation are reversible, gathering an interior at one moment and guarding against an exteriority in the next. Those segmentations may divide digital/physical space or separate layers in a larger system, and from this conjunction, we can trace an infrastructural sovereignty that is produced less by formal law than by the shared postures of political subjects in relation to common infrastructure. (21)

Unlike other geographic projections, the interface is not only a visual representation of an aspirational totality; it is an image of a totality that when acted on also instrumentally affects the world. By using one regime exclusively, the User collaborates in that regime’s larger program. Interfacial regimes are thereby also totality machines, both describing linkages and making projective claims over them. Two alternate interfacial totalities may compete to describe the same site, User or process, and the mingling of overlapping totalities brings some degree of noise and ambiguity. (229, 373)

A User has the capacity to leave the obligations of one envelope and to enter into the preferable terms, confines, contexts, or protections of another envelope. (Referring less to the formal “rights” of Users to do so, which may be stipulated contractually but made insignificant by other mechanisms that filter exit and entrance opportunities for particular Users). This dynamic relates directly to that of the camp/enclave as its Interfaces oscillate between interiorization and exteriorization. (371)

In many respects, for digital and urban spaces, mobilization precedes and supersedes settlement. Instead of housing massive inert populations, the Web and the City are foremost platforms for sorting Users in transit, who in turn reprogram that platform, and through it re-sort one another. (149)

Websites/architectural structures demand an active conversion between economic and technical systems and their respective limitations. Their initial program may be born of economics, but their execution can push sideways through other models of value, confounding and compressing the political spectrum along with them. (42)

Digital and architectural Interfaces are a subject to rigorous standardization of scale, duration, and morphology of their essential components. The simplicity and rigidity of these standards makes Interfaces predictable for their Users. (47)

In groups, both digital and architectural envelopes provide an interfacial rhythm that can be monotonous, dissonant, or catalyzing. No one Interface interfaces in a vacuum: a fact regularly overlooked by normative interaction design methodologies that overindividuate Users, forever atomized and psychologized, instead of seeing them as part of larger and less frozen subject-apparatus networks. (167)

Some corralled spaces persist longer than others, fleeting or permanent, and so even as they fix space, their interfaces may be in motion, however imperceptible their speed. (163)

“Web Design as Architecture”, design research project. Based on the analysis of “The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty” by Benjamin H. Bratton with direct and edited quotes from the book. Other research includes the words of Bjarke Ingels, Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. By Sofya Tuymedova. First published: September 2020.