The Book as Interface

Interfaces are areas of meeting that facilitate control. That's one place to start.

Interfaces are also places where two micro-climates or environments meet - some natural, others designed: the interface between woods and clearing, lake and land (we call the interface the shore), between street and yard, street and building.


The interface as illustrated by Saussure in his diagram conceptualizes points where thought and language come into contact - where the control happens.

Computer, phone, keyboard. These are easy to see as interfaces because you do something and something happens.

Interfaces are designed. Interface design addresses look and feel but also control and feedback. Designers call the design of the interaction at the interface experience design.

The book interface is material. We can see it, touch it, manipulate it.

It is designed. The book evolved over time to develop covers, page numbers, end papers, paratextual material, indexes, TOCs. These elements vary by genre: Novels generally don't have indexes.

The interface elements might have been designed for function, but they soon were given meaning. The interface elements of the page establish relationships between parts of the text: Headers and footers, margins. But also covers, back covers, end papers, spine as all part of the interface of book - and all those change when we move to digital.

To start

Read, take notes on, commonplace, come to class ready to question, discuss, consider, exemplify, extend.

All of these are in in the course Dropbox folder.

We'll search Google for images of books showing changing and varied interfaces

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