[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon Jan 27 04:19:54 CET 2014


even here, think of 'bad code' that produces glitches - then the code is, 
at least for some folks, morphed into something else that has a different 
sort of value...

I don't think, having read E.D. for a long time, that I can understand her 
intent in most of the work; it's that elusiveness among other things that 
is astonishing. You can't paraphrase her work - and there's a book out, a 
satire of sorts, that attempts to do just that, and the results are funny 
and ridiculous precisely because of that -

- Alan


On Sun, 26 Jan 2014, Pall Thayer wrote:

> 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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>             NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org
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> 
> 
> 
>
>             --
>             *****************************
>             Pall Thayer
>             artist
>             http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>             *****************************
> 
> 
> 
>
>             --
>             *****************************
>             Pall Thayer
>             artist
>             http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>             *****************************
> 
> 
> 
> ==
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> 
> 
> --
> *****************************
> Pall Thayer
> artist
> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
> *****************************
> 
>

==
email archive http://sondheim.rupamsunyata.org/
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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