Interfaces are both surfaces and thresholds. On
the one hand, an interface is a kind of surface
screen, whether literal or figurative, that contains
meanings and operations. On the other
hand, an interface is a window or doorway that
As window or door, the interface serves a boundary
function, for example, between the human
body and the external world of apparatuses and
devices. More generally, an interface is any distinction
made between something and something
else: HTML is the interface between legible text
and markup tags; the freezing point is the interface
between water and ice. Interfaces are physical or
symbolic markers of difference. They constitute
the articial distinction between two media and
allow media to be remediated into other forms.
Given their role as differentiators, interfaces
exist in relations that are systemic, layered, or nested. To facilitate such systemic architecture,
interfaces require intricate codication and regulation.
Interfaces are zones of exchange and as
thresholds they are productive and generative.
Yet as regulators, they also restrict or delay
passage. Hence interfaces display a dialectical
tension between the immediate and the arcane,
the clear and the complicated, or the evident and
Yet interfaces are not simply thresholds, they are also surfaces or screens. An interface is what Vilém Flusser calls a “significant surface” (Towards a Philosophy of Photography, 1984, p. 6). Thus in addition to being a zone of decision that facilitates exchange and passage, an interface is also an “‘undefined zone’ between the inside and the outside” (Genette, Paratexts, 1997, p. 2). Not just doorways, interfaces also have their own internal reality; they support an autonomous aesthetic space. Edge and center combine within the interface, binding together the frame and the work. Interfaces thus link both inside and outside.
Original article by Alexander Galloway