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Gathering Critical Code Studies Working Group 2020

This special gathering collects reflections of the Critical Code Studies Working Group 2020 (CCSWG ‘20), a biannual meeting to explore the intersections of humanistic inquiry and computer code studies. Coordinated by Mark Marino (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), and Zach Mann (USC), the 2020 Working Group was held online from January 20 to February 3. It brought together more than 150 participants from around the world to share ideas, populating dozens of discussion threads with hundreds of comments, critiques, and critical readings. The need to attend to code could not be more urgent. Code exerts a regulatory effect over society and […]
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Introduction to Critical Code Studies Working Group

[…]was originally published on the CCS website in January 2020 as “Week 1: Introduction to Critical Code Studies”.   Welcome to the first week of the 2020 Critical Code Studies Working Group. During this week, we’ll be introducing critical code studies in general by means of the introductory chapter to the forthcoming book Critical Code Studies (The MIT Press). We’ll also take this week as an opportunity to introduce newcomers to the field but also to take stock in where the field has come and to look forward to where it is headed next. Critical Code Studies (CCS) names the […]
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Critical Code Studies

[…]the way we might explicate a work of literature in a new field of inquiry that I call Critical Code Studies (CCS). Codework critics and artists have operated on the cusp of this analysis. Cayley’s emphasis, for example, is “the role of code in literal art” but not the role of code in all software objects, even those not intended to be literary. The focus of CCS is not literature made of code or code that is literature, although these may benefit from its techniques. Rather, I propose that code itself is a cultural text worthy of analysis and rich […]

Critical Code Studies Conference – Week One Discussion

[…]Stephen. Critical Code Studies 26 Oct 2009. Web. 8 Sept 2010. http://criticalcodestudies.com/wordpress/2009/10/26/tim-toady-bicarbonate/ Reiche, Claudia, and Verena Kuni. Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols. Autonomedia, 2004. Print. Russo, Julie Levin. thearchive2. LiveJournal. 10 Apr 2008. Web. 8 Sept 2010. http://community.livejournal.com/thearchive2/1465.html Young, Susan Elizabeth, and Dave Aitel. The Hacker’s Handbook: the strategy behind breaking into and defending Networks. CRC Press, 2004. […]
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Critical Code Studies and the electronic book review: An Introduction

Critical Code Studies starts here.” That was the tagline of the Critical Code Studies Working Group (CCSWG), a gathering of over 100 scholars from countries across the globe for an applied experiment in field formation. The Working Group met over the course of six weeks, beginning February 2010, to engage the work of Critical Code Studies. As we defined it in the early days of the CCS blog, Critical Code Studies is the application of hermeneutics to the interpretation of the extra-functional significance of computer source code. It is a study that follows the developments of Software Studies and Platform […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Two Discussion

In the second installment of a six-week discussion, contributors search for examples of Critical Code Studies “in the wild.” Instead of asking how code can be read critically, they examine how code is already being created and disputed by lawyers, programmers, and the general public. Editor’s Note: In the second installment of the discussion that took place in the summer of 2010, Jeremy Douglass leads the Critical Code Studies Working Group in exploring the practical challenges and constraints of reading code critically, with an emphasis on real-world examples. An introduction and overview for this week by Mark Marino and Max […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Two Introduction

Can Critical Code Studies overcome the divide between technology workers and technocultural theorists? Code matters. It matters to the many people who program it, and to those who allow themselves to be programmed by it. It makes a difference how the code is written. It makes a difference on which platform it is executed. It makes a difference who is reading it and what they know about programming. It makes a difference how the programmer imagined the ones who would read her code. Code matters. Its materiality is immaterial when discussing the ways in which segments of code circulate through […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Three Discussion

In Week 3 of a six-part series, Critical Code Studies contributors spelunk the mysteries of Colossal Cave Adventure, a seminal text adventure game. Delving into close readings of the original FORTRAN code, the group plots the twisty passages linking media theory, deconstruction and philosophies of programming. Group Code Annotation: Colossal Cave Adventure According to Donald Knuth, designer of the “literate programming paradigm,” Colossal Cave Adventure is the “ur-game for computers” (Knuth 1998/2002). Because computer games have, for decades, been a point of connection between the worlds of technology (from the Greek techne, “skill”) and art (from the Latin ars artis, […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Three Introduction

[…]of Crowther’s source code serve as the point of departure for the third week of the Critical Code Studies Working Group. In this week, Jerz led a new team on a second expedition to map the original source code of Colossal Cave Adventure. The project differed slightly from the previous two weeks in that the group attempted to collaboratively annotate Crowther’s original source code in conjunction with the usual discussion. Their contributions, following the ethos of Critical Code Studies, highlighted extra-functional content and offered historical, political, aesthetic, technical, and anecdotal observations. About thirty-five years ago, when Colossal Cave Adventure was […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Four Discussion

In Week 4, Critical Code Studies contributors kept the magic alive as they discussed Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s “On Sourcery and Source Codes,” the first chapter of her forthcoming Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. Informed by Chun’s psychoanalytic reading and her awareness of the materiality of code work, the conversation deals with fetishism, gender, genetics, and performativity in ways both abstract and tangible. Week 4 of the CCS discussion began with a reading from the first chapter of Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s recent book, Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. We are grateful to MIT Press for allowing us to share […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Four Introduction

[…]open up spaces of discovery. Nevertheless, it was our shared text for Week 4 of the Critical Code Studies Working Group – Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s first chapter from her forthcoming book Programmed Visions: Software and Memory – that challenged me to rethink the anecdote of my dad’s fingertips in relationship to notions of ritual and magic that undergird so much of our technological practice. In this chapter, Chun introduces the term “sourcery” to signify what she sees as contemporary culture’s fetishism of source code. Software (source code), Chun claims, “is a magical force that promises to bring together the […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference- Week Five Discussion

[…]the spot. While something of a special case, then, livecoding raises broader issues for Critical Code Studies, especially questions related to the definition of programming and the visibility of code. As John Bell pointed out, livecoding further applies pressure to the valuation of “scripting” over “coding”: the former is not considered “real” programming because of the use of high-level languages for small tasks. The Ruby on Rails framework was promoted using an “amazing and carefully scripted series of demo magic tricks,” in Jeremy Douglass’ words: on a terminal window projected for an audience, a few scripts generated a basic but […]
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Week One: Introduction to Critical Code Studies

[…]to Critical Code Studies (Main Thread).” CCS Working Group 2020, http://wg20.criticalcodestudies.com/index.php?p=/discussion/57/week-1-introduction-to-critical-code-studies-main-thread. Marino, Mark C. Critical Code Studies › Electronic Book Review. 31 Jan. 2012, […]
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An Emerging Canon? A Preliminary Analysis of All References to Creative Works in Critical Writing Documented in the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base

[…]alone to define a given canon for an entire field of practice is taking a bold, or even arrogant, critical position. The critical reception of a work might be the one area in which we could hope for a clearly empirical measure of canonicity. Yet Ensslin asserts a particularly privileged position with regard to reception when she writes that: The research situation with most hypertexts is such that reviews and academic papers are written by hypertext supporters. Therefore, criticism tends to be rather opinionated and to emphasize the academically interesting sides of a hypertext rather than its cumbersome attributes. Evaluations […]
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Nature’s Agents: Chreods, Code, Plato, and Plants

[…]is a kind of agency revealed here that manifests most powerfully through the water. The poem, the code, and the reader are all very important, to be sure, especially within the context of media studies, which has tended to fetishize the technological at the expense of the natural.  For this the chreod offers a powerful lesson: it is the water’s pull that powers the text. Indeed, it is the “voice” of the water that is paramount when it comes to thinking about environmental fragility.  Communicating the contingent nature of ocean water is, according to Poets for Living Waters,  one of […]
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"These Waves …:" Writing New Bodies for Applied E-literature Studies

[…]and analytical tools of postclassical narratology, ludology, applied linguistics, critical code studies, and semiotics (starting around the mid-2000s). Spear-headed by pioneering early hypertext reader-response work done for example by David Miall and Teresa Dobson, and further refined by scholars like Anne Mangen, Adriaan van der Weel, Colin Gardner, James Pope, and, most recently, by the UK-based “Reading Digital Fiction” research group (Bell, Ensslin, van der Bom, and Smith; see also Ensslin, Bell, Skains, and van der Bom), a third wave of e-lit scholarship has been producing empirical insights into how readers perceive, process, and communicate experiences of multilinear reading, of […]
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Digital Creativity as Critical Material Thinking: The Disruptive Potential of Electronic Literature

[…]‘the humanities’ own methodological toolkits’ with theoretical insights from software, critical code and platform studies” (Pitman, Taylor 4). While I don’t disagree with the potential of this approach to DH, what I am suggesting inverts the traditional Humanities discursive order more radically, by situating making and materiality alongside or, even better, as conceptual undertaking, by taking the place of the immateriality of the rational logos. In order to avoid falling in the trap of instrumentalization, my e-lit framework does not “supplement” traditional humanities’ methodologies but inverts its rational order and asserts the importance of creativity over or, more accurately, within […]
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Critical Code Studies Week Five Opener – Algorithms are thoughts, Chainsaws are tools

[…]constructs indistinguishable from the ones that are built in.  In essence, a macro is a block of code that exploits homoiconicity by temporarily treating another code block as if it were data (before passing it back to the compiler as code). You are not expected to understand this. You know what would be really great?  If people took a piece of a live coding performance — this one or another — recorded their own live commentary over it, and then put that in the comment thread.  It’s easy!  Even the simplest video editor will let you do this.  And really, isn’t […]
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The Code is not the Text (Unless It Is the Text)

[…]computing and technoscience – and his explicitly chosen media keep him immediately allied with codeworking colleagues, Sondheim’s work must also be read against earlier and contemporary writers working within or with a sense of the formally and aesthetically innovative traditions of poetics, and not only the poetics which intersects with Burroughs and Acker. With the implication that Sondheim’s writing needs to be judged as such and should not necessarily be granted a special credit of affect or significance because of its instantiation in new media. In the necessity to read the work in both a programmatological context and in the […]
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Critical Ecologies: Ten Years Later

[…]“Oh, don’t worry, my Toby never bites!” every critic warms to his subject, feels what he studies or the way he studies it is good in the way belief. But I think the rest of us should be leery of Toby. He’s descended from wolves; it’s in his nature to bite. So there is something to be said for a critical stance that refuses to make nice right up to the bitter end, keeps its distance from that which it can’t help but admire. Anyway, the new physiocracy can take care of itself. Leave the note of hope to the […]