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For Wendy Chun, “software is a functional analog to ideology”. Critically discuss with references to software interfaces.
Park benches are uncomfortable or curved to prevent people from sleeping on them . Interfaces are indeed everywhere and in addition to making our lives easier they try to educate us.
In marketing-speak good software interfaces are simple, self-evident, light-weight, slick and smooth. They cut through the noise and manifest a process of doing things by limiting our choices. In a Foucault way interfaces impose a discourse.
That’s why some researches such as Wendy Chun look at software as “a functional analog to ideology.” She terms user-friendliness as “software’s constant constriction and interpellation.”
Interfaces force people into their language, metaphors and ways of working rather than the other way around . They build a hierarchy, channel behaviour and strive for predictability. At the same time interfaces are designed to dissimulate their function as middlemen .
As perfectly illustrated by Soren Pold:
“Just think about how many codes and values – from programming, commerce and ideology – are mobilized when you click “buy”, pay with your credit card, and download a tune in a proprietary file format with technically and juridically imposed restrictions on how can you use, play and copy it.”
But there is another important aspect of interfaces – they try to cut the multitude of options in an ever complicated world. Sometimes less is more. It’s good to have choices but their increasing number can overwhelm people. “[…] it may impair freedom by taking time and energy we’d be better off devoting to other matters.”
I would argue that good user experience is impossible without enforcing a process with respect to the needs and motivations of the users. This is also ideology, but getting happy users is what pretty much all designers work for. There is no way to create a great software interface without imposing some conceptual restrictions. Nobody to my knowledge has refuted that yet.