The Interface and the Screen

In Lev Manovich’s boimagesok “The Language of New Media”, Chapter 2: The Interface, Manovich uses the term human-computer interface (HCI) to describe the ways users interact with computers. Under the heading, The Language of Cultural Interfaces he further mentions that the HCI is inclusive of both physical input and output devices. These devices are the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Interfacing of cultural data refers to text, photographs, film, music, and virtual environments. The language of cultural interfaces according to Manovich, are cinema, printed word, and general-purpose human-computer interface.

It is emphasized that the screens frame is separated into two spaces of different scales. These spaces are the physical and virtual. The screen functions as a window into an illusionary space and also as a flat screen that carries text labels and graphical icons. Manovich says the screen provides “depth and surface, opaqueness and transparency, images as illusionary space and image as instrument for action.” Manovich also tells us that screens can be interactive, real-time, and dynamic. According to Manovich screens are used by data-entry clerks, doctors and pilots, and are used at store checkout counters, and dashboards in cars. Of course there is also the computer screen. Manovich defined the screen, “a window into the space of representation that itself exists in our normal space.”

The human interface and representation refers to the spectator as having double identity in that the spectator simultaneously exists in “physical space and the virtual space that continues it.” Manovich elaborates on this idea and tells the reader that because of the double identity, there is a “tradeoff for new mobility of the image as well as for the newly available possibility to represent an arbitrary space, rather than having to simulate the physical space where an image is located.”

My biggest impression from this chapter is the realization that the screen itself is what enables one to posses the illusion that are able to navigate through virtual spaces. The best example of this can be seen in the movie Johnny Mnemonic.


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