Form and Content in Interface Designing: the Seen and Unseen Transformer (Reading Response 4)

Anne Frances Wysocki and Julia I. Jasken’s “What should be an unforgettable face…” inspires me most among the three readings, although Cynthis L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe’s attitude that interface can be the agent for the exertion of power in electronic contact zones. Because interface automatically enforce the ideology of the designer, then we as rhetoric and composition folks should pay attention to it and enable our students to design personal interfaces that will express themselves in a powerful way.

Page design, screen design, and web design are all closely related to visual rhetoric, through which we enforce our hidden desires. I agree very much with the idea of “good user interfaces are invisible.” I really wish that there will be a good interface on wordpress so that I will not try so hard just to find out the suitable background theme for my blog. After secretly blaming the designers for having been so lack of creativity for a little while, I suddenly realized that if I were allowed to design one of the themes on my own, it will be utterly difficult.

I think the title “What should be an unforgettable face…” is rhetoric itself, for it implies what an interface should be like in order to be useful. The tile also has dural meanings like a pun. “Unforgettable” can mean a great cohesion of composition which after reading its content, only its spirit, its core remains in our mind. We are completely not aware of its form any more because the content is so impressive. “Unforgettable” can also mean the experience of using certain interfaces. I think this should be why the authors want to emphasize the powerfulness of interface design when visual rhetoric is engaged.

Wysocki and Jasken do not agree with compositions instructors’ over emphasis on the form of interface, rather, they prefer the content of the interface, which is often unseen and quite influential to users because interfaces such as writing softwares are ideologically loaded(32-33). But it really strikes me when Wysocki and Jasken give a thorough analysis on how software designers can manipulate the users in terms of their design and rules of using that software(34), which means the classical idea of rhetoric’s function as “leading the souls” is hidden behind the curtain of interface design. Designers actually decide who they design for and how to lead their users to their designing expectations(35).

I was not aware of the interfaces of softwares the authors mention, and I never thought of interface as far as textbooks are concerned. However, I think I might have considered the issue for a while when the textbooks in China change a lot and I have to try to adapt to those new textbooks and new ideologies. Now I know that the hardships are caused by interface design and a planned shift from teaching ideologies to ideologies. Wysocki and Jasken also think that the interface of textbook is important, but often neglected by writing instructors and textbook designers(37-38). Therefore, maybe instructors should consider some of the aspects that the textbook designers overlook. Or, textbook designers should consider some of the interface problems when they make a shift in the first place.Wysocki and Jasken think that the technics we use to design interfaces are rhetorically neutral whereas the product they create are highly rhetorical(39-40). My own experience of using both HTML design and DREAMWEAVER makes me more than satisfactory on this argument. I do think that the latter will allow us more space to consider the rhetorical effects our designs are likely to trigger, rather than the process of learning how to use our functional literacy on codes and codes design in a writing classroom. Nevertheless, before we approach and understand the unseen, we have to get sufficient and necessary functional literacy. Form and content is after all intricately intertwined.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ellah1
    Sep 22, 2012 @ 16:22:11

    You point out the difficulties that you have experienced with WordPress. I had not considered interfaces as a problem until reading these articles. They were enlightening. You also speak of the problems with textbooks. I wonder if there will be textbooks in the future or if we will rely on computers for information. If that is true, interfaces become even more crucial.


    • Belle Wang's multi-modal writing studio
      Sep 25, 2012 @ 15:02:02

      Indeed! I am impressed by the article and it reminds of of usability design on Dr. Gu’s course. We were asked to design our own websites and it was time consuming, but quite interesting. It was in that class that I learned how important interface design is. Now that we have some professionals such as the second speaker Dr. Hocks invited, I really feel a huge pressure! How can we design interfaces as non-professionals? I suppose we should at least become semi-professionals first?


  2. valerievisual
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 00:12:16

    This relates really well to the talk that Laurissa talked about with designer and user. I wonder what a Learning Module like ULearn might look like if students could get in there and redesign the interface.


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