[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon Jan 27 19:19:01 CET 2014

On Mon, 27 Jan 2014, BishopZ wrote:

> The logical standards we hold mathematics up to, seem rare in
> literature (i am probably wrong here) - almost antithetical to the
> freedom of fantastical imagination we celebrate in many authors (eg.
> stream of consciousness). Yet, not dissimilar to the rigor of iambic
> pentameter.
You're not wrong; they're different fields. Iambic p. isn't very rigorous 
btw and the comparison isn't along those lines, at least for me.

> This relation between the standards of logical interpretation in
> mathematical proofs and the literal insight it provides is what
> interests me most here. PERL poetry and the like tend to be kitsch,
> and rarely express anything interesting on the computing side. It is
> usually bad poetry and in my experience, always bad code.
_Interpretation_ in mathematical proofs is another issue altogether; Godel 
for example was a platonist but people have used his work as a backbone of 
conventionalist philosophy. Brouwer developed another direction altogether 
which went further through others in an ultra-intuitionist direction, both 
both directions are pretty much discarded as far as I can see. The 
discussions around foundations range from set theory through category 
theory and topos theory and there are other newer directions. Perhaps 
someone on the list can speak to all of this; the mathematics is too 
difficult for me.

> Instead of Shakespeare, how about Stephen King? Anyone remember the
> "call heard around the world" in Lawnmower Man? The Lawnmower Man
> existed as a hyper-being or virtual-being, thus his language and code
> were mixed, but more than that?
How about no one? I don't see the point of taking representatives from 
literature, code, mathematics, etc. - they're very wide fields. Andy Oram 
edited a book a while ago on the aesthetics of computing, and there's a 
book called, I believe, Aesthetic Computing that I used to have - may have 
the wrong title; both of these were fairly technical.
> [1] written code increasing adopting natural language as it's form
> (Behavior-driven development, cucumber),
There were also Pascal and Winograd and natural language developments 
in the 70s.

> [2] programming languages increasing abstracting away from lower-level
> machinic operations, constantly increasing the computational power and
> functional sophistication of shorter and shorter code blocks
> (gentrification perhaps),


> [3] physical manifestations of virtual computing power (ala new
> aesthetic) collapsing the differences between the physical and the
> virtual, especially in terms of what is "real",

I don't see this as a result of increased power; for me this is a 
phenomenological issue that has always been with us.

> [4] a kind of literary collapsing, as information technologies affect
> our vernacular, shift our mythologies, re-make what it is to be poetic
> (towards aphorism perhaps), etc,
And I don't see literary collapsing - in fact there are more poetry 
readings and publications now than ever before. As far as "towards 
aphorism" - as usual there are numerous styles, influences, techniques, 

> [5] and a psycho-social collapsing, where physical (distance),
> cultural and linguistic differences become smaller and smaller,
> globally.
Linguistic differences, beyond the disappearance of smaller languages, 
seem to be hardening, as nationalism is on the increase today worldwide.


> So yeah, Wittgenstein and and the psycho-geographic/performative stuff
> seems most on point to me. Better than taking a overly machinic or
> codified view. I do think it is about holding the work up to
> standards, multiple standards. Compiling and Executing the code is
> merely the beginning, and for the code to be as high quality as
> Faulkner, it is going to need more that good math and a clever
> punchline.

what does Faulkner have to do with it? And for me, sometimes a clever 
punchline is amazing!

I think our worlds are very much different :-)

- Alan

> imo, bz

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