Layers of Separation

This weeks readings waxed poetic (and oftentimes a little too poetic) on the common idea of user interaction with computers. In depth analysis is given on how we create content, how content is received, and how we shape and are shaped by the system as a whole. As Manovich notes in “Database as a Genre of New Media”, the artist creates a unique work within a “particular medium” but the nature of the computer allows for a plethora in a particular medium. Waking to the idea of the layering effects of content creation in new media (form) and how we are affected by it, has led me to create two groups of understanding—physical and interpersonal.

Kirschenbaum in “So the Colors Cover the Wires”, explores the idea of form and content very specifically as a continuous layering of distances from the content by form. He creates a storyline where a user is browsing a site. We come to understand from the story that the site’s design, the web browser she uses and event the desktop and operating system being utilized to access this content all act as layers of interface that separate the user from the content. He goes on to mention there’s on escaping the interface hamster wheel and as it gets in the way of completing the “job” you are trying to accomplish. This is a physical layer. Depending on the strength of the interface and its “usability” and user-friendliness, our experience can be either enlightening or dampened.

The layer in which we are informed by the general feature of the Web as a place where all can congregate and submit content, is most interesting. Nina Simon in “Discourse in the Blogosphere” calls upon our use of platforms like YouTube, Netflix or Flickr as often interacting and recommending based on both our prior use of the platform and other users with similar usage-styles. She use the idea our “experience with the content is informed and refined by other users’ submissions and judgements” which I immediately group in the interpersonal layer of new media interaction. In this interpersonal layer we are not as in control of our user experience as we imagine as active algorithms work to shape our movement through online content.

I found a new way of looking at the media I use on a daily basis as a series of interfaces that I encounter. The environment in which I find my entertainment, news, in which I communicate with friends and family, are all a part of a complex system of layered distance from the actual content I hope to access. In those layers are the effects of a global network of people using and creating content, constantly unconsciously manipulating the experience of the next user.

-Lynn Robinson


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