continuum of faciality

A rough draft of a brief essay on faciliazation in HCI …

I am writing this essay for an audience of designers. I would like to tack on a paragraph or two about our discussions of adding another layer of the continuum which is vertical with human computer at top and neo-sentient computer at the bottom. Any suggestions on the text are welcomed. The paper was meant to distill down a few ideas- some of which I am just being introduced to. I gladly accept criticisms but be ready to be my teacher, there is a lot I do not understand.

Facialization is defined as “a system of codifing bodies according to a centralized concept of subjectivity or agency in which the face, literally or metaphorically is the conduit for signifying expressing and organizing the entire body.” (Munster, 122)

Since the birth of the analog computer the machinic language of the computer dictated the conversation between human and machine. As the computer advanced, the everyday embodied experience of the human remained a condition of neglect. Interaction was restrained by the binary world of code. Today the pendulum swings. The seamless visceral human experience of reality directly informs interaction design. This movement marks a significant shift in the relationship between human and computer. Arranged on a continuum according to subjectivity, any instance of human-computer interaction can be located approximate to three zones. The traditional objective human-computer relationship is located one end of the continuum. The middle of the continuum is interaction dependent on physical aspects of embodiment. Lastly, on the other end of the continuum, a new body of thought emerges: post-humanism. Post-humanism, a complete disruption of traditional objective human-computer interactions, merges body and code. It is within this place that we are finding issues of faciality to be disrupted. In her book: Materializing New Media, Embodiment in Information Aesthetics, Anna Munster seeks to understand the impacts of these movements in relation to their effects on our understanding and relationship with computing. She titles her third chapter: Interfaciality: From the Friendly Face of computing to the Alien Terrain of Informatic Bodies. It is in this paradigm shift that we can find the full continuum of HCI and all the weight in which faciality is causing movement.

Traditional interface design deals with an objective relationship between human and computer. The human is forced to respond and position oneself as a “user” entering into the world of computing. The goal of these interactions become utilitarian, information seeking, and first and foremost aim to complete a task. This interaction speaks to the “users” desire for productiveness. Creating an interface on this premise relies heavily on the foundation of interaction heavyweights such as Donald Norman, Brenda Laurel, and Jakob Neilsen. Siting a few salient characteristics, this zone of interaction is marked by designing elements of intuitive visual communication (Neilsen), focused on studies of users in context (Laurel), and considers the interface as a tool which comes second in place to the direct task at hand (Norman).

The lines of HCI have shifted into a human-centered zone of interaction characterized by a strong subjective relationship between human and computer. This human-favored interaction is marked by multi-modal interactions and immersive or dispersed computing environments. This subjective relationship posits embodied interaction as a basis for human-computer communication. This shift puts emphasis on reclaiming the dematerialized body which was lost in pervious HCI interaction. Much work has been done in this area of HCI including the projects of Rokeby and Diane Ludin. This work displays several elements of this middle ground including the creation of an invisible interface (Rokeby) and immersive environments which create continuity of perceptual experience. It also typically operates off of interaction between environment, human, and computer and uses visceral bodily experience as cues for interaction (Ludin).

In a third and most extreme category of HCI there is an emerging post-human computer-body relationship which is characterized by a merging of the two entities and a continuous feedback loop which creates a completely new state of being. The goal of this interaction lies within the ability or possibility to create an adaptive and responsive learning system. The idea behind this area of HCI extends towards a desire to create an advanced, more intelligent entity. To combine computation and code with direct links to body and biological matter opens up a new world which has only just begun to hint at possible outcomes of these emerging digital bodies. Many of these ideas of post-human interaction can only be explored conceptually through new-media artwork. An example of this category of interaction includes the work of Stelarc. Some elements which characterize this node of HCI include biomimetic computational grafts (Stelarc), wearable computing, adaptive systems, and extreme subjectivity. As extreme concepts of post-humanism are just beginning to be realized, these new media artworks are doing a good job at dismantling our understanding of faciality and disturbing any clear boundaries human-computer interaction.

[This is the conclusion paragraph talking about how designers must recognize where along this continuum they are designing. The justification for this choice and the baggage associated with each.]

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About alexandria
Alexandria I. Jarvis Master of Graphic Design '12 North Carolina State University

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