Skip to main content

Interfaces: Method and Critique for Designed Cultures

Event site:

June 2015


Interfaces mediate any number of social issues and practices, from financial trading, business performance and ‘smart’ cities, to collaboration, media literacies, or the mediation of identity. Every social, economic or political practice that relies on a computer screen or similar technical device, whether this be a Bloomberg terminal, a ‘performance dashboard’, an organization website or a social media platform, is expressed through an interface. As the goal of many interfaces is to be invisible, seamless or intuitive, and since they require specific forms of expertise and design literacy in order to be studied, they are often ignored in social science and humanities research. And yet, as culture becomes ‘datafied’ and screens of all sorts are embedded and naturalized in urban and domestic settings, the study of interfaces cannot be left to user experience (UX) or human-computer interaction (HCI) designers. Indeed, the so-called data revolution means that social science and humanities research is increasingly interface work. We make interfaces. Our objects of inquiry are manifested via interfaces. Interfaces, in other words, are the medium of data.

This two-day event builds on recent intellectual work on interfaces (Hookway 2014, Halpern 2015, Drucker 2014, Andersen and Pold 2011, Galloway 2012, Chun 2011) to ask: How can we study culture and society through a focus on interfaces? How can we conduct research with interfaces? That is, how can we reflect on but also develop interfaces as part of our research? What historical legacies, of perception, attention, and control, can help us makes sense of contemporary interfaces? What are the critical possibilities for interface studies beyond the paradigm of usability?

The event will feature invited presentations from leading experts, training workshops, a roundtable discussion and a ‘networking’ dinner. The program is aimed at PhD candidates, but is open to anyone across the social sciences and humanities whose work engages with interfaces. Attendance is free, but places in the workshop sessions are limited. Ten travel bursaries of £200 are available to help with travel and accommodation.

Programme and further info:

Confirmed participants include:

Orit Halpern (The New School, author of Beautiful Data)
Nathaniel Tkacz (CIM, University of Warwick)
Christian Ulrik Andersen (Aarhus University, editor of Interface Criticism)
Søren Bro Pold (Aarhus University, editor of Interface Criticism)
Olga Goriunova (CIM, University of Warwick)
Noortje Marres (CSISP, Goldsmiths)
Hendrik-Jan Grievink (Art Director and Designer, Next Nature)
Carolin Gerlitz (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam)
Michael Dieter (CIM, University of Warwick)


This event is supported by the Warwick ESRC Doctoral Training Centre (Advanced Training and Multidisciplinary Events), the ESRC (Professorial Fellowship Grant) and The Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM)