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article / 17/06/2017

We need interfaces that make us free

We start by the conclusion: we need interfaces that makes us free. Interfaces are the mode of interacting with software and thus codify, sanction or enable individual and collective behavior. We want free interfaces that empower the free organization.

Interfaces represent social relations, often stereotyped: our contacts are conveniently catalogued as “friends”, “relatives”, “co-workers” or “love interests”, but never as “fellows” or “comrades”. But this isn’t what’s important, because it represents and reproduce our social world pre-digitalization –what isn’t shown is the division between admistrator and administered. Between agents with full control over what is shown by the interface and its infrastructure and those that contribute themselves as its cognitive content, but constrained by the play of elements provided by the interface, and never as autonomous agents in a space that’s understood as collective.

Of course this codification of particular forms of social relations isn’t total and there’s always room for resistencies given by interpretation and re-interpretation. But is it possible to build another kind of relations? Can we construct ourselves as autonomous persons through and inside of re-interpreted interfaces? What degree of autonomy do we have when the conditions of use are administered by others?

Software, like any other technologies, isn’t a neutral or ahistorical tool, producing different outputs depending on the hand that wields it. It is a product of the play of particular forces and thus it’s embedded in their specific relations. Hence we affirm that software, through its interfaces –even more so when it’s considered “friendly”, or in technical jargon “usable”– not only isn’t neutral, but it makes politics, just those of others.

What we need are interfaces that make our politics, that represent the social relations and values that we want to practice. Interfaces that facilitate and empower our freedom.

We need interfaces that makes us free, that break the administrator-administered relation, that have comrades in charge of administration, that work distributedly, in the computers we have right now and not on the computers located in the clouds of others…

June, 2013 - November, 2014