Towards a Sociopoetics of Interface Design: etoy, eToys, TOYWAR

The purpose of this piece is to dive into the design and planning of what an interface is, and why the design of interfaces is important for users.

What is an interface?

“Let us de￿ne interface as a site or situation where two or more systems meet and interact” (122).

I’ve actually previously written about examples of interfaces for a journalism class with Molly Steenson, seen here. An interface is the design of the point of communication between two entities. For example, something as simple as a doorknob can be an interface because it is literally a barrier into another room. If it’s designed poorly, it’s hard to communicate how to use the doornob. The design needs to be simple in order for users not to feel overwhelmed. In another example, objects such as laptops have specifically designed interfaces. The Surface Pro is specifically designed to have a touch screen and a detachable keyboard to become a tablet for its users. It’s designed specifically for customers who want an interactive experience, want to watch television or want a more portable laptop.

Commercial for Surface Pro 3

What are the sociopoetics of interfaces?

There are three components to the design of interfaces: experience design, information architecture, and information design.

Experience Design

“ ‘Experience design’ refers to the crafting of a user’s overall actions, behaviors, and emotional responses while s/he is using an interface” (124).

Basically, how can designers create interfaces to be “user-friendly” and easy to understand. On a website basis, it’s how people navigate the site. Sometimes, websites are purposely created to be confusing, in order to get a (emotional) response from the user. Etoy.com’s interface is overwhelming, with many hyperlinks, especially on their timeline page. It’s purposeful, as etoy.com is a digital art group.

Information Architecture

“refers to the organization of information for potential users” (127).

Thus, it’s the underlying skeleton or structure of information (127). It’s how information is displayed, such as the menus on a website.

Information Design

“It’s the place where front-end users actually interact with back-end systems” (130).

This is where graphic designers come in.

Efficacy of cultural performances

McKenzie defines social eficacy, organizational eficiency and technical effectiveness as:

  1. social ef￿cacy, “their ability to maintain or transgress social norms” (135).
  2. organizational ef￿ciency, “the “minimaxing” of inputs and outputs, costs and bene￿” (135).
  3. technical effectiveness, “the operational functionality of technological systems” (135).

My questions:

  1. How can graphic designers learn to incorporate more interactivity with their designs, including the use of sound?
  2. When man and computer are performing together through the use of interfaces, how close are we to man-computer symbiosis?
  3. If Toywar happened today, what do you think would have been different about the process? Would their be a blow up of hashtags on social media? Would people care?