Huffington Post (part 1)
"Software Takes Command: An Interview with New Media Theorist Lev Manovich," Part 1. By Illya Szilak.
December 16, 2013.
Illya Szilak: In Software Takes Command, you state that in order to understand the "contemporary techniques of control, communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision-making, memory, vision, writing and interaction," it is necessary to understand the software layer that "permeates all areas of contemporary society."
Do you think that software "hides in the open," shaping and delimiting communication and information in ways that most people never consider, because it is so pervasive, and because certain "species," to appropriate your evolutionary metaphor, already dominate? For instance, I am thinking of the use of big data and data fusion to analyze information. Is it possible to look at a body of data in a way that is technically "true" - meaning the data is not overtly falsified, but actually "false," meaning the processing of data, because beyond the capabilities of human perception, can appear to be without social, political and economic motivation?
Lev Manovich: Software does "hide" in a most direct way. The algorithms which control which updates from your friends you will see on Facebook, the algorithms behind Google Search, or the algorithm controlling your car GPS - none of them are accessible. In the recent couple of years, media and academics started to discuss the politics of the few selected algorithms (such as Google search) - but there are millions of other places where algorithms control things and we just take it for granted, because "things work."
Software also "hides" in a more indirect way. Even when the code is available, it can be too big to analyze it and discuss its "politics" in any meaningful way.
Last but not least - as you said, software also "hides" because certain "species" (certain interface techniques and conventions) are completely taken for granted. They become naturalized, and then they become invisible to most people. So the goal of my new book is to expose these conventions (in relation to media authoring and access software such as Photoshop, After Effects or Google Earth), discuss their historical origins (the ideas which led to them) and scrutinize the details of their operations.