[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Mon Jan 27 08:04:00 CET 2014


Are you suggesting that computer programming code will not read as well as
Shakespeare?



On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 2:02 AM, Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com> wrote:

> Bishop... what code are you referring to? What mathematics are you
> referring to? I get the feeling that you might be constructing a field of
> understanding that already exists in the field that your appealing to. Can
> you elaborate?
>
>
> On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 1:30 AM, Bishop Zareh <xchicago at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> If the code read as well as Shakespeare then there would be no question
>> that it is literature; I think their question is: is it likely that
>> mathematics can be so eloquently conveyed as to warrant literary analysis.
>>
>> Bz
>>
>> ••• Sent Mobile •••
>>
>> On Jan 26, 2014, at 9:07 PM, Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com> 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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>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>> *****************************
>>>> Pall Thayer
>>>> artist
>>>> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>>>> *****************************
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>> *****************************
>>>> 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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>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> *****************************
>> Pall Thayer
>> artist
>> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>> *****************************
>>
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>
>
>
> --
> *****************************
> Pall Thayer
> artist
> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
> *****************************
>



-- 
*****************************
Pall Thayer
artist
http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
*****************************
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