[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Mon Jan 27 08:29:41 CET 2014


I don't understand. What should we be looking for in Shakespear's writing?


On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 2:10 AM, Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:

>
> Look at Einstein's original papers on relativity for one thing.
> But Shakespeare is a red herring; how many writers would bear the
> comparison?
>
>
> On Mon, 27 Jan 2014, Bishop Zareh 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
>>             *****************************
>>
>>
>>
>> ==
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>>
>>
>> --
>> *****************************
>> Pall Thayer
>> artist
>> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>> *****************************
>>
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-- 
*****************************
Pall Thayer
artist
http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
*****************************
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