The case for interfaces in international relations

Pedro MAIA

This article aims at expanding current debates on technology in international relations (IR) by pointing toward an underexplored actor: the interface. The interface is a zone of contact, experience, and communication between users and computer technology. Although part of many engagements with world politics—e.g., security software and market analytics dashboards—interfaces remain underexplored in the discipline. This work first introduces what are interfaces and then presents two ways in which they matter for the discipline of IR by using the Frontex Joint Operations Reporting Application as an example. First, interfaces are a relevant—although not yet systemically analyzed—place to explore how politics is performed and staged, since their fluidity allows for different engagements with political matters and leads to multifaceted political formations. Second, interfaces introduce a distinct topology of governance. One of neither centralization nor decentralization—as pointed out by recent debates on political governance—but rather centralization and decentralization. In the conclusion, I introduce questions and concerns that could move the research of interfaces in IR forward.