Illustration of a retro computer in a pink desk, with keyboard, mouse, and an eaten apple
Illustration of a retro computer in a pink desk, with keyboard, mouse, and an eaten apple
Art by Romain Courtois

In hindsight, an interface is a thing that came into being as a result of a multitude of complex relations in both orders: social and technological. The most important aspect of these relations is that these two elements are indissociable, for every technological achievement is a social achievement.

These questions are in no respect different from those of the field of User Interface Design, be it a framework, a technique, or an art manifestation. From any vantage point, the whole set of blurry issues, topics, and questions regarded on the course of the construction of interfaces, directly relate to a social and historical context, and there is a pretty good reason for that: Virtual interfaces are - as any other purposeful tool - an extension of a socialized environment, and borrows its symbolic structure and codes of use. …


Tradução moralmente obrigatória do artigo de Dirk Philipsen em Aeon

Image for post
Image for post

A realidade vigente é mais uma vez tentar romper a agonia de uma pandemia mundial e a desumanidade duradoura da opressão racista. Trabalhadores da saúde arriscando suas vidas pelos outros, redes de ajuda mútua capacitando comunidades, fazendeiros entregando alimentos para clientes em quarentena, mães formando filas para proteger os jovens da violência policial: estamos nesta vida juntos. Nós — jovens e idosos, cidadãos e imigrantes — fazemos melhor quando colaboramos. Na verdade, nossa única maneira de sobreviver é nos protegermos, ao mesmo tempo que protegemos a resiliência e a diversidade deste planeta que chamamos de lar.

Como insight, isso não é novo ou surpreendente. Os antropólogos há muito nos dizem que, como uma espécie nem particularmente forte, nem rápida, os humanos sobreviveram por causa de nossa capacidade única de criar e cooperar. “Todo o nosso prosperar é mútuo”; é como o estudioso indígena Edgar Villanueva capturou a sabedoria milenar em seu livro Decolonizing Wealth (2018). O que é novo é até que ponto tantos líderes cívicos e corporativos — às vezes culturas inteiras — perderam de vista nossa mais preciosa qualidade coletiva. …


Painting from Urbino, dated 1480, showing a city with perfect proportions
Painting from Urbino, dated 1480, showing a city with perfect proportions
The Ideal City — Urbino 1480

There is a very specific point in western culture where the control over images was deeply transformed from free abstraction (a more semantic construction of imagery) to an objectivity-based, or better, mathematically biased depiction of concepts.

Semiotically, the depiction of anything, however technical and accurate, is faded to be, ultimately, a conceptual depiction, for it will always be a subjective capture conveyed or rendered on canvas. The advent of photography is comparatively new, as long as human history is concerned, meaning that for the most part of history, images were nothing but mystical conveyances, mediated by ‘illuminated’ beings, capable of such realization. Unsurprisingly, within the Christianized Roman world, artistic manifestations such as painting and sculpture were tightly connected to an overall sense of righteousness and divine duty. Illuminations — adornments on sacred manuscripts for example — were, according to Arnold Hauser, commissioned by priests with a twofold function: to serve as an expensive reminding of highness and refinement (these manuscripts were only commercially accessible to royals), along with its more commonly known religious functions, in terms of adhering truth and value to the manuscript as a document. But if we carefully observe these works from their aesthetic standpoint, it becomes instantaneously evident that, although they had a practical (and political) function to solve — that of adherence of value and authenticity — they were composed of images construed with profound disregard to practical rules of depiction of reality, meaning; their officiality stood over mystical and imaginary graphical elaborations, in disregard of strict rules, so that the composition, positions, dimensions, served the sole purpose of the doctrination. …


Picture of an ox in the walls of the caves in Lascaux
Picture of an ox in the walls of the caves in Lascaux
Caves of Lascaux

It is an ever-recurring topic: The issue of what comes to be an ‘image’. The anthropological fact — now fairly recognized — that an image is a cultural metaphor is quite clear. This clarity is mostly derived from Hegelian-Marxian shift on the origins of meaning, bringing it into something more historical and earthly (instead of metaphysical), so the concept of image becomes something that belongs in time and space, meaning a historical and contextual determination. This view is unavoidable and, one could say, undeniable in contemporary scientific terms without falling into metaphysics. …


woman touches an equipment that simmulates raindrops, while looks at painting
woman touches an equipment that simmulates raindrops, while looks at painting
The haptic device in front of John Latham’s painting “Full Stop” uses ultrasound to create the sensation of rain falling from the bottom up in the hand. The Guardian.

Why do I insist so much that the UX (human-machine relationship) is a function so closely related to a social/biological condition, even more than simple system design? Because the human interface — which every effort of UX makes use of to provide humanly appropriate applications and processes — is a cultural interface. We could easily trace the specific cultural origin of all the technologies used in creating any systems that surround us, however, exploring this theme would transcend the intentions of this essay.

UX is not a hard science; it is true though that processes used in its constitution as AI (with steps such as mapping, data mining, datasets and so forth) are based on hard sciences, but this threshold is sketchy. This is because the logical constitution of programming used in artificial intelligence, with algorithms that use inductive propositions (I shall talk about Inductive Learning Algorithm (ILA) soon), is extremely more human than the straight cold calculation of pure mathematics. …


Beyond a system that struggles to frame all — a system that does not frame at all.

Mirrored girl on a row of lockers stare at the clock on the wall.
Mirrored girl on a row of lockers stare at the clock on the wall.
Illustrations by Tom Peake

Before you get started with a project that takes gender under consideration, stop and question yourself with honesty: What are you using this information for?

And, in case you still consider using this information, I have two pieces of bad news to share:

  1. It would surprise you the overall uselessness of this register .
  2. Gender, as an amalgamation of social functions, is something much more complex than a column on a spreadsheet within the database.

Sex or gender?

First things first: Sex is biological. It comprises the physical characteristics of individuals, that is, the presence of a certain sexual organ, hormones, specific organs such as the Uterus, mammary glands, testicles, and some further general anatomical dispositions. …


Illustration from Kenzo Hamasaki called Wifi Society showing people from multiple ethnicities using smartphones.
Illustration from Kenzo Hamasaki called Wifi Society showing people from multiple ethnicities using smartphones.
Kenzo Hamazaki Wifi — Society

A few decades passed by until the Californian Hippies’ dreams of a horizontalized and democratic world wide web could prove itself quite impracticable. Some lessons were learned: The internet was made real as part of a military project (ARPANET) and reached its ultimate expansion only when it proved itself to be the biggest and most efficacious medium for the globalization of consumer financial markets. So far, nothing new.

We could then, from the heights of 2020s, claim that the internet is not a democratic place by its own nature. Regarding that, the concerns in order to create systems whose end is the best user experience cannot — at least should not — bypass these questions on democracy and accessibility. Considering that UX means User Experience, and not necessarily Consumer Experience, a few extra responsibilities are to be carried out by these professionals, many of which have explicit political foundations. …


Illustration from Kenzo Hamasaki called Wifi Society showing people from multiple ethnicities using smartphones.
Illustration from Kenzo Hamasaki called Wifi Society showing people from multiple ethnicities using smartphones.
Kenzo Hamazaki Wifi — Society

Foram algumas décadas até que o sonho dos hippies californianos de uma rede mundial de computadores que fosse horizontalizada e democrática, se comprovasse simplesmente inviável. Algumas lições foram aprendidas: A internet foi realizada como um projeto militar (ARPANET) e conseguiu sua derradeira expansão apenas quando se provou ser a maior e mais eficaz mídia para globalização de mercados financeiros e consumo. Sem novidades até aqui.

Podemos então, nos altos dos anos 2020, dizer que a internet não é um espaço democrático pela sua própria natureza. …


Para além de um sistema que tente enquadrar a todos, pense em um sistema que não tente enquadrar.

Ilustração de Tom Peake mostrando uma garota e seu reflexo frente a armários e um relógio.
Ilustração de Tom Peake mostrando uma garota e seu reflexo frente a armários e um relógio.
Ilustrações de Tom Peake

Antes de desenhar um projeto que leve em consideração pesquisa de gênero, pare, e se questione com sinceridade: para quê utilizará esta informação? E, se fizer isso, tenho duas más notícias: 1ª; se surpreenderá com a inutilidade geral desse registro. 2ª; se surpreenderá com o fato de que gênero, como conjunto de funções sociais, é algo muito mais complexo do que uma coluna na planilha de cadastro.

Sexo e gênero

Primeiro, as primeiras coisas: sexo é biológico. É uma distinção da composição física dos indivíduos, ou seja, a presença de determinado órgão sexual, presença de hormônios, órgãos específicos, como útero, glândulas mamárias ou testículos, e algumas disposições de ordem anatômica geral. Em se tratando de sexo, há macho e fêmea (e casos raros de intersexualidade). O que vem a seguir, é simples: Esta questão realmente não deve ser uma preocupação de qualquer aplicativo, site ou serviço. …


Image for post
Image for post
O aparelho háptico à frente da pintura de John Latham “Full Stop” usa ultrasom para criar a sensação de chuva caindo de baixo para cima na mão. The Guardian

Por que eu insisto tanto que o UX (relação humano-máquina) seja uma função tão intimamente relacionada com uma condição social/biológica, ainda mais do que simplesmente design de sistemas? Ora, porque a interface humana — à qual todo esforço do UX se faz valer no intento de prover aplicações e processos humanamente adequados - é uma interface fundamentalmente cultural. Explorar este tema escaparia aos intentos desse ensaio, mas poderíamos facilmente traçar a origem cultural das próprias tecnologias empregadas na criação destes sistemas, não só em suas interfaces.

Mas vamos lá, afinal, UX não é das exatas; é verdade que processos empregados na sua constituição como AIs com processos tais quais mapping, data mining, datasets e etc, baseiam-se em ciências exatas, mas este limiar é tênue. Isso porque, por exemplo, a constituição lógica da programação utilizada em inteligência artificial, com algorítimos que se valem de proposições indutivas (voltarei a falar sobre Inductive Learning Algorithm (ILA)), é muito mais humano do que obra do cálculo frio da matemática pura. …

About

Marcus Lyra

Master: Semiotics of Cult. Tartu, Estonia, Meios e Processos ECA-USP, História Social/Arte (PUC-SP), Com/Semiótica (Anhembi) {culture, communication technology}

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