Interfacing Knowledge:
New Paradigms for Computing
in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

March 8-10 2002,
at the University of California at Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara,
McCune Conference Room
6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building (HSSB)

Conference organized by The Digital Cultures Project and Microcosms.
For a detailed description of the November 3-5 2000 Digital Cultures Research Conference, follow this link.
Contact: Professor William Warner (warner@english.ucsb.edu)


To suggest the generous scope of our approach to the question of the interface, here is the definition of "interface" offered by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

  • A surface forming a common boundary between adjacent regions, bodies, substances, or phases.
  • A point at which independent systems or diverse groups interact: "the interface between crime and politics where much of our reality is to be found" (Jack Kroll).
  • Computer Science. The point of interaction or communication between a computer and any other entity, such as a printer or human operator.

Our conference title "Interfacing Knowledge" most obviously invokes the third of these meanings, the special meaning given "interface" by computer science, as a point of contact "between a computer and any other entity, such as a printer or human operator." Because a computer is necessarily experienced through software, the human-computer interface is apparently open to endless rewriting. For this reason, the computer-human interface has seemed, when compared with most physical and socio-political interfaces, uniquely open to reconfiguration and radical redesign. This may help explain the utopian expectations and creative ferment evident in the last half century of computer-human interface design.

The first two meanings of interface, however, usefully suggest how the interface can be a zone of difference and potential conflict: first, the interface is a surface or boundary between discrete physical regions, bodies, substances, and so forth. The interface is thus that which simultaneously serves as a boundary and a bridge, which protects and threatens the integrity of each interfacing entity. When we move from a physical to a social register, the interface becomes a point or surface where "independent systems" or "diverse groups" act upon each other, or "interact." This reciprocal agency involve a range of activities, from civil communication and cooperation, to negotiation, contention, or even war. Embedded within the technical practice of interface design, one glimpses the "faces" behind or within the inter-face. The physical and social interfaces subsist within the technical definition of interface indexed by our conference, "Interfacing Knowledge."

This brief rehearsal of the meanings of "interface" helps to suggest the wide range of questions opened by the interface, and the act of "interfacing" knowledge. This conference approaches the term "knowledge" in an equally broad manner, as befits a university-oriented conference. We seek to explore the diverse university discourses that involve the production, storage and distribution of knowledge, the various epistemological practices that characterize how knowledge is understood to be structured and therefore to function. Artists, humanists, computer scientists, social scientists and others all approach issues of knowledge and how we interface it in idiosyncratic fashions, yet we all participate in a single institutional community. It is perhaps more accurate to speak of "knowledges"rather than the more abstract and utopian "knowledge" in the singular. We hope this conference itself can serve as an interface that helps us question and make better sense of how we engage with one another intellectually, socially and politically. The way we work with and within the interface engages the many fraught ways that our society at large negotiates what constitutes legitimate knowledge in such realms as politics, economics, law, and popular culture.


In order to give focus to our investigations of the interface, we have divided our conference into a series of thematic sessions, although we hope that discussion will usefully spill over from session to session. Active discussion and debate are the primary goals for this working conference, and to this end we have divided our conference into three session formats: 1) those with a series of 3 or 4 speakers delivering papers; 2) panel discussions, with each panelist offering a brief presentation before participating in a round table discussion; and 3) demonstrations of actual interfaces projects. All sessions are designed to provide a substantial period of open discussion with the conference participants at large.


Click [audio] next to a talk or discussion to download full mp3 audio.

  March 8-10, 2002. All sessions held in the McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB (Humanities and Social Sciences Building).
Friday, March 8 2002
[audio] 9:30-9:40: Brief Opening Remarks by Dean David Marshall, Mark Meadow, Bill Warner
  9:40-11:35: History of Knowledge Interfaces
  Chair: J. Hillis Miller (English and Comparative Literature, UC/Irvine)
  Clifford Siskin (English, U of Glasgow), "Interfacing with Writing: Clubs and Systems in Eighteenth-Century Print Culture"
  Wolfgang Ernst (Bauhaus-Universitšt, Weimar), "Replacing Faces by Interfaces: an Archeology of Media-Knowledge"

Christian Jacob (Director of Research, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), "From Alexandria to Alexandria: Scholarly Interfaces of a Universal Library"

  11:45-1:00: Humanities Interface Demonstration
  Chair: Mark Meadow (UC/ Santa Barbara, Microcosms)
[audio] Mark Meadow (History of Art, UC/Santa Barbara, Microcosms), "Memory, Place and the Sixteenth-Century Interface"
[audio] Philip Sallis (Auckland University of Technology) and Brendan Dobbs (Computer Engineering Research Lab, Auckland University of Technology), "Camillo Scholars Resource Management Project"
[audio] Discussion
Break for Lunch
  2:30-4:30 Philosophy of Information
[audio] Chair: Sarah Pritchard (University Librarian, UC/Santa Barbara)
[audio] Espen Aarseth (U of Bergen), "So What Else Is New: Computers and the Academic Construction of New Media"
[audio] Mark Poster (Director of Film Studies, Professor of History, UC/Irvine), "Perfect Transmissions"
[audio] Jay David Bolter (Wesley Professor of New Media, Georgia Institute of Technology), "The Digital Interface as Window and Mirror"
[audio] Discussion[audio]
  4:45-6:45 Keynote
  Introduction: William Warner (English, UC/Santa Barbara)
[audio] Alan Kay, ""The Computer Revolution Hasn't Happened Yet"
Saturday, March 9 2002
[audio] 9:00-9:15 Opening Remarks by Dick Hebdige (IHC Director, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, UC/Santa Barbara)
  9:15-11:00 New media Interfaces: A Panel Discussion
[audio] Chair: Sue-Ellen Case (Theater, UC/Los Angeles)
[audio] Lisa Parks, (Film Studies, UCSB), "Kinetic Screens: Epistemologies of Movement at the Interface"
[audio] Margaret Morse, (Film and Digital Media, UC/Santa Cruz), "The Poetics of Interactivity"
[audio] Rita Raley, (English, UC/Santa Barbara), "Interferences: Elements of Style at the Interface."
[audio] Discussion
  11:15-1:00 Authorship and the Interface
[audio] Chair:William Warner
[audio] George Legrady, (Media Arts & Technology, Art Studio, UC/Santa Barbara), "Interface Metaphors: A Site of Authorship"
[audio] Sharon Daniel (Film and Digital Media, UC/Santa Cruz), "Collaboration and Agency: Need_X_Change as Community Interface"
Break for Lunch
  2:30-4:30 Scholar Networks: A Panel Discussion
[audio] Chair: Robert Essick (English, UC/Riverside)
[audio] Leigh Star (Communication, UC/San Diego), "The Textures of Infrastructure"
[audio] Geof Bowker (Communication, UC/San Diego), "When the Local Meets the Global in the Infrastructure"
[audio] Bruce Robertson (History of Art, UC/Santa Barbara, Microcosms), "Mapping Scholar Networks on the Campus: the case of the University of London"
[audio] Larry Carver (Library, UCSB), "The Evolution of the Alexandria Digital Library (ADL) Design"
  4:45-6:15 Moderated Discussion
[audio] by Rosemary Joyce (Anthropology, UC/Berkeley)
[audio] Discussion
Sunday, March 10 2002
  9:30-11:30 Social-Political Implications of the Interface: Panel Discussion
[audio] Chair: Mark Bartlett (California College of Arts and Crafts)
[audio] Warren Sack (SIMS, UC/Berkeley ), "Online Public Space and Public Discourse"
[audio] William Warner (English, UC/Santa Barbara), "Enlightened Anonymity"
[audio] Sue-Ellen Case (Theater, UC/Los Angeles), "Sexing the Interface: Gender, Sex and the Avatar"
[audio] Bruce Bimber (Political Science, UC/Santa Barbara, Director Center for Information Technology and Society), "Common Knowledge: Multiplying the Interface in Public Life"
[audio] Discussion
Break for Lunch
  1:00-3:00: Reinventing the Interface
[audio] Chair: Robert Nideffer (Information Studies and Art Studio, UC/Irvine)
[audio] Katherine Hayles (English, UC/Los Angeles), "Material Metaphors and Inscription Technologies: Re-Imagining the Interface"
[audio] Lev Manovich (Visual Arts Department, UC/San Diego), "From Cultural Interfaces to Info-Aesthetics" (Or: from Myst to OS X)
[audio] Peter Lunenfeld (Art Center College of Design, Pasadena), "Visual Intellectuals and Networked Ideals"
[audio] Alan Liu (UCSB), "The Art of Extraction: Toward a Cultural History and Aesthetics of XML and Database-Driven Web Sites"
  3:15-4:45PM: Moderated
[audio] by Mark Meadow and William Warner

Discussion Threads from the Conference
Compiled by William Warner

(Printer-Ready Program)

Organizers: Co-organizers are Professor Mark Meadow (UC Microcosms Project) and Prof. William Warner (UC Digital Cultures Project). Local planning committee also includes Profs. Bruce Bimber, George Legrady, Alan Liu, Lisa Parks, and Bruce Robertson.

Sponsors: Interfacing Knowledge is being sponsored by The UC Digital Cultures Project and Microcosms as well as the Rockefeller Foundation, UC's Humanities Research Institute, the UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, the Departments of English and the Department of Art History.


to top home  Director William WarnerWebmaster Michael PerryModified July 30, 2002 22:17