Category Archives: theory

Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface

[Image: Ole Worm, Cabinet of Curiosities, Musei Wormiani Historia, c. 1650] Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface by Johanna Drucker: ABSTRACT - This article outlines a critical framework for a theory of performative materiality and its potential application to interface design from a humanistic perspective. Discussions of the materiality of digital media have become richer and more complex in the last decade, calling the literal, physical, and networked qualities of digital artifacts and systems to attention. This article extends those discussions by reconnecting them to a longer history of investigations of materiality and the specificity of media in critical theory and aesthetics. In addition, it introduces the concept of performative materiality, the enacted and event-based character of digital activity supported by those literal, physical conditions, and introduces the theoretical concerns that attach to that rubric. Performative materiality is based on the conviction that a system should be understood by what it does, not only how it is structured. As digital humanities matures, it can benefit from a re-engagement with the mainstream principles of critical theory on which a model of performative materiality is based. The article takes these ideas into a more focused look at how we might move towards integrating this model and critical principles into a model of humanistic interface design.