"Queering Our Interface" examines the inherent hetero/gendernormative foundation that our computers, and more specifically, our internet’s interface is built on. Capitalism’s entrenchment in the internet has made a digital queer existence more difficult; part of the opposition to queerness comes with its inherent threat to a capitalist agenda. This work serves as both a critique of the current human/computer relationship as a manifestation of hetero/gendernomativity under capitalism, and also an attempt to reimagine what our relationship with the machines we use might look like. Gold created four Google Chrome extensions that manipulate interface across the internet to encourage a human/computer relationship based on an alternative set of values. Specifically by reimagining our relationship as one of mutual and non-transactional care, these interfaces are inherently subverting the prevailing norms markers of technology, namely efficiency, utility, and productivity. Gold raises the question of how creating an alternative human/computer relationship could open up possibilities for relationships dynamics in the physical world.
[How might close buttons express connection?]
On a human scale, the act of saying goodbye or seeking closure carries a lot of weight. Closing in digital space can feel capricious and inconsequential; often it is reversible. Modern design standards prioritize indestructible design, or design that allows an accidental closing, deleting, or erasing to be undone. This is often regarded as a “life-saving feature”, but are there implications for how this feature might translate over to our physical lives? The act of closing is ritualized via a Google Chrome extension. At the end of a tab or a browser window’s life, the browser delivers its human counterpart a message containing a memory from their time together (in URL form), a brief thank you for the birth and death of these windows, and a numerical identifier. How might creating a mindfulness surrounding the relationships we so easily create and terminate with our browser windows instead cultivate care and intention around their summoning?
[How might touchscreens express warmth?]
A warm device often means that the processor is hard at work, and the device is generating heat. While warmth might be generated physically by the machine, how might we, as humans, both appreciate this warmth as evidence of hard work on the part of the computer, and also show warmth in return. Existing as a Google Chrome extension, this work permits one’s browser to redirect at randomly timed intervals to a black screen. Text on the screen encourages those browsing to seek out the warm spots with their fingers, taking a moment to appreciate their computer’s labor. This work begins to envision a world in which one’s computer asks for physical connection during a particularly strenuous time, as one might do with a romantic partner or friend. How might the role of communication between digital and physical realms, and asking for what one wants, change the way we expect our computer to behave?
[How might hyperlinks express shyness?]
This work centers on the caretaking of hyperlinks who behave as if they hold the human trait of shyness. Taking the form of a Google Chrome extension, the human interacting must move their cursor incredibly slowly to interact with hyperlinks they come across while browsing. Otherwise, fast cursor movements cause hyperlinks to temporarily shed their click-through ability and shrink down to an incredibly small size. Once the cursor movement slows, the hyperlinks grow back to their original size and regain click-through abilities. The element of trust is crucial in this work. In order to ask a hyperlink to carry a human from one site to another, in this case, one must earn the trust of the hyperlink and spend the time it takes to understand their sensitivities. How might taking the time to understand these “creatures” extend to how we view the traits of other interface elements? Might our browsing habits change to accommodate these traits?
[How might icons express a bedtime ritual?]
Digital caretaking for our computers is often in service of performance, rather than growth or happiness. Human-to-living entity caretaking does not translate over to the digital world in part because of the lack of infrastructure encouraging it. We cannot take our icons on a virtual walk, for example, or enable a mechanism that allows them to hear us when we greet them good morning. This work allows a computer’s human counterpart, at the end of their browsing session, to methodically take icons representing sites they browsed that day and put them in their virtual bed. When all icons have been put to bed, the screen turns black and the browser closes. How might our relationship to our computer change if we were in charge of gently waking it up every morning or putting it to sleep?