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Metainterface Character

10:00 AM, jeudi 16 août 2018 (1 heure)
In our new book, The Metainterface, we describe how the interface has developed beyond the PC and is integrated into devices, apps, clouds, and data streams as a new cultural industry (Pold and Andersen 2018). Besides cartographic mapping of traffic and people’s whereabouts from Google, social media and smart city services, we also see a more direct relation to – and control of – literacy, reading and writing. Aarseth’s cybertextual machine (Aarseth 1997, 21) is today thoroughly networked and centralized in cloud-based platforms and the reading behaviour of the human operator is not just relevant as individual interaction, but produces content and data for the platform that is used for profiling and matched in networks to other similar platforms. In this sense, cybertexts are integrated into larger metainterface industries that share behavioural data, profiles and marketing. Wendy Chun has consequently compared current readers to “characters in a drama putatively called Big Data” (Chun 2016, 94), which exists to register and profile people according to choices, relations and taste. In short, measuring and modelling affective relations becomes a central business models of a cultural metainterface industry. We never escape our avatar profile.
The American, Hong Kong based artist and writer, Daniel C. Howe’s Advertising Positions demonstrates how we become metainterface characters through our online profiles. The project shows two model characters whose skin display the ads they have collected through navigating the web. The project shows an estimate of how the metainterface industry sees the user; as a profile with exploitable interests auctioned off to the highest corporate bidder. The American artist and writer, Benjamin Grosser has also worked with the effects of datafication and the metainterface in a series of projects related to Facebook, Netflix and similar big data platforms, including You like my like of your like of my status, Facebook Demetricator and Go Rando. Grosser’s works show how Facebook’s metrification parasites on affective social dimensions, such as relations between an I and a You (You like...), emotive reactions (Go Rando) and social activity and status (Facebook Demetricator). Your personal and social reading and writing overlap all too perfectly with Facebook’s profiling, and to be readable to your Facebook Friends, you have to follow Facebook’s template and consequently also become readable to Facebook.
These projects ultimately portray a bleak picture of a metainterface industrial control of literacy and of how literature, art and aesthetics is commodified and instrumentalized. However, they also point to how literature potentially becomes sites of critical reflection of the way reading-writing is encased in a big data drama. In this way, they point towards redesigning and rewriting the metainterface character.
Aarhus University
Associate Professor
Aarhus University