[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Mon Jan 27 04:07:04 CET 2014


Don't get me wrong, Alan, I value your opinion and always feel that you
give very interesting input into these sorts of discussions. True, we don't
know Emily Dickinson's intent but we do know that she presented herself as
a literary figure and can assume her intent from there. Likewise, we know
what Duchamp presented himself as before the urinal and can view that work
within that context. Should we not do the same with code? If a coder has
not presented in a way that the code is worth reading, then we assume that
it's not worth reading. However, if they have... then it should be
essential reading, no? Anything else would be like a painter saying, "Look
at my use of color..." and then regarding black and white photos of his
paintings. No?



On Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 9:51 PM, Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:

>
> If you find it absurd, actually there's no way to argue with that.
>
> Ok, it's absurd. As I keep saying, it's a family of usages, everyone has
> different opinions; you and I aren't going to come to an agreement, again
> by a long shot! :-)
>
> - Alan
>
>
> On Sun, 26 Jan 2014, Pall Thayer wrote:
>
>  #!/usr/bin/perl
>> package absurd;
>> sub new {
>>     $this = new absurd();
>> }
>>
>>
>>
>> On Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 9:11 PM, Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com> wrote:
>>       A lot of this makes no sense to me. It sounds like people are
>>       taking things at face value without considering the multitude of
>>       scenarios. Paintbrushes, staples or nails are as likely to
>>       become significant elements of a work of art as a urinal(!),
>>       depending on the artist's intent. Trying to comment on any of
>>       these in a single sentence or even paragraph is absurd. As is
>>       the attempt to analyze whether or not code is literature or not.
>>       The fact that it's code does not make it literature. The fact
>>       that words are contained within a book does not make it
>>       literature. It depends on the intent. We could produce a book
>>       that contains an alphabetical listing of all known brand names
>>       in the world and release it under different contexts. One could
>>       be issued as a reference manual, the other could be released as
>>       a poem. These would be viewed very differently. Likewise, we
>>       could take a photo of a bicycle and publish the same photo in
>>       several different ways. One could warn of the dangers of
>>       cycling. Another could promote the benefits of cycling. A third
>>       could be devoted to the aesthetics of the bicycle itself.
>> Some code is intended to be read. And that doesn't necessarily draw
>> from its performance. It may be that a reading of the code provides
>> one message while the running of it provides another. Perhaps
>> experiencing both will better inform the work. I don't know. It
>> doesn't really matter.
>>
>> My primary message is that wondering whether code is literature or not
>> is absurd. It may or may not be. But to attempt to present any
>> argument that may indicate that you feel it might not be, is absurd.
>>
>>
>>
>> On Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 8:05 PM, Rob Myers <rob at robmyers.org> wrote:
>>       On 26/01/14 03:14 PM, Alan Sondheim wrote:
>>       > On Sun, 26 Jan 2014, Rob Myers wrote:
>> >> Reading Mezangelle is like running code to debug it -
>> watching call
>> >> stack frames being pushed and popped and data being created
>> and operated
>> >> on. You have to keep track of nested contexts and back
>> references. Each
>> >> new word fragment or piece of punctuation can operate on and
>> transform
>> >> the previously read elements. Even when you've parsed
>> Mezangelle it's
>> >> unstable and active, whether it reduces to a singular meaning
>> or is more
>> >> ambiguous. This is different from 1337-style encoding.
>> >>
>> > True, but it's not that different from the waves that occurs
>> in more
>> > traditional poetry. You're not debugging Mezangelle and you're
>> not
>> > running it; you're interpreting it and one person's
>> interpretation is
>> > different from anothers (which is also true btw of antiorp and
>> poetry).
>> > Also you're assuming a stability in 1337 which might not be
>> there.
>>
>> I agree that traditional poetry obviously has structure and
>> flow, and
>> can transform meaning over the course of being read with great
>> subtlety
>> or degree. I do think that the nature of the re-reading and
>> re-thinking
>> that Mezangelle requires and affords via its syntax is more
>> compact than
>> plain language poetry. And that this compactness of notation is
>> a
>> quality of some kinds of code.
>>
>> Some programming languages are interpreted and it's obviously
>> possible
>> for two runs of a program to give different output. In this
>> sense there
>> are different interpretations of the same text when interpreted
>> by
>> computer, as there are when interpreted by a human being. I'm
>> certainly
>> not arguing that Mezangelle is Meme RNA, but I think these
>> comparisons
>> are useful.
>>
>> I can't speak to antiorp. :-( I shall investigate, thank you.
>>
>> 1337 is inherently ironic but it's also very much a shared joke
>> and
>> shibboleth for cliques. It involves much play but is more
>> instrumental.
>>
>> >> Regarding Seibel's comments on code as literature, James
>> makes a good
>> >> point about paintbrushes. We don't read shopping lists or
>> meeting notes
>> >> as literature, yet they are written. Code does not tend to be
>> written as
>> >> literature. It's possible to read code for pleasure and to
>> find its
>> >> formatting and data structures, its *form*, aesthetically
>> satisfying.
>> >> Code is mathematics, so this is similar to enjoying a
>> mathematical proof.
>> >
>> > Here I do disagree with you; reading-as is something that at
>> least I,
>> > and I assume many others do (just as such lists were read by
>> Braudel as-
>> > history). Example - I'm currently reading Walsh's Mercantile
>> Aritmetic,
>> > published in Newbury, Mass, in 1800 - which is just what the
>> title says,
>> > but which reads like a fantastic epic, especially the sections
>> dealing
>> > with monetary exchange (I might quote later, because the
>> writing is
>> > amazing).
>>
>> Reading-as is closer to Siebel's concern. I greatly enjoy the
>> lists in
>> (for example) the Cornelius Quartet, "The Sale Of The Late
>> King's Goods"
>> or "JPod". And there may be a program listing out there waiting
>> to be
>> discovered as literature. But I'm doubtful of this for reasons
>> of what I
>> guess are "family resemblance".
>>
>> We could go Situationist and simply nominate a particular
>> listing as a
>> novel, but this would I think be different from what we are
>> discussing here.
>>
>> > I also am not sure that "Code is mathematics" just because
>> it's exact;
>> > certainly at the level of machine language, it follows strict
>> protocols.
>>
>> "Software is math" is a core argument in the non-patentability
>> of software:
>>
>> "When people say that software is math, they mean that in the
>> most
>> direct, literal sense." -
>>
>> http://www.forbes.com/sites/timothylee/2011/08/11/
>> software-is-just-math-rea
>> lly/
>>
>> > Mathematical proofs and proof theory are complicated - look
>> atthe
>> > 4-color theorem - and I find code-reading very different. But
>> then I'm
>> > neither an astute mathematician or programmer.
>>
>> Code can be very complex as well, I've never read the whole of
>> the Linux
>> kernel for example. I don't know the proof for the 4-colour
>> theorem but
>> I enjoy the proofs of set theory and find that mathematics, art
>> and code
>> have a shared concern with some kind of *form*, and some kind of
>> *aesthetic* governing it, whatever their other differences.
>>
>> >> I think that a piece of software that is a) structured like
>> Emacs to be
>> >> self-editing or at least self-revealing of its code and is b)
>> >> constructed to use this facility essayistically or
>> discursively or
>> >> narratively is what would be required for code to be
>> literature. Char
>> >> Davies' "Osmose" is a weak example (whatever its other
>> strengths) of
>> >> this.
>> >>
>> > I really do think there's any sort of "requirement" involved,
>> maybe
>> > part-requirements like part-objects, or something along the
>> line of
>> > "tendencies"; I'm extremely dubious of requirements in
>> relation to art
>> > in general - even the idea that art/literature, etc. _should_
>> be
>> > something as opposed to something else. Aesthetics and reading
>> > behaviors, reception theory and the like, is far more complex
>> than this.
>>
>> Again I don't think it's easy to go further than family
>> resemblance in
>> the ontology of art.
>>
>> >> But I may be proposing a gentrification of code.art. Or
>> discussing the
>> >> equivalent of why nails and staples aren't considered more
>> important in
>> >> the social history of painting. ;-)
>> >
>> > Well they are important, and there are books that emphasize
>> things like
>> > the chemistry of paints etc. - I relate this again to Braudel
>> and the
>> > annales school of historiography.
>>
>> I've just read "Color, Facture, Art And Design" (highly
>> recommended)
>> which is largely a history of grounds and pigments and how they
>> relate
>> to the social content of painting. This kind of
>> technical-conceptual
>> integration, is what I am arguing for in this discussion.
>>
>> I chose staples and nails because their relative volume in the
>> material
>> and significant construction of painting supports is generally
>> low and
>> contingent. My point was that we have to consider the
>> possibility that
>> code, and I say this as someone almost ridiculously invested in
>> the idea
>> that art can be made with or of code, may not be strongly
>> relevant in
>> the critique art made with it.
>>
>> - Rob.
>>
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>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> *****************************
>> Pall Thayer
>> artist
>> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>> *****************************
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> *****************************
>> Pall Thayer
>> artist
>> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>> *****************************
>>
>>
>>
> ==
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> web http://www.alansondheim.org / cell 347-383-8552
> music: http://www.espdisk.com/alansondheim/
> current text http://www.alansondheim.org/si.txt
> ==
>
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-- 
*****************************
Pall Thayer
artist
http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
*****************************
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