[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Mon Jan 27 08:06:59 CET 2014


And, at the same time, suggesting that someone suggested that it would?


On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 2:04 AM, Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.
>>>>>
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> NetBehaviour mailing list
>>>>> NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org
>>>>> http://www.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> --
>>>>> *****************************
>>>>> 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
> *****************************
>



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