[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Rob Myers rob at robmyers.org
Tue Jan 28 04:58:38 CET 2014

On 26/01/14 06:05 PM, Alan Sondheim wrote:
> On Sun, 26 Jan 2014, Rob Myers wrote:
>> 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.
> depends on the poet - Donne is fairly compact, as is Dickinson, while
> Whitman may not be. for that matter, at least for me Lacan and Derrida
> are compact, Schoepenaur is not, the math I'm currently reading is
> highly compact, etc. etc. somewhere information theory/entropy comes
> into play here.

I do take your point, and I think that information theoretic compression
is what I'm talking about here. I have made a testable proposition. Yay
digital humanities! :-)

>> 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.
> Not that different; again I think it's an issue of "families of usages"
> re: Wittgenstein, reception theory, and so forth. For a while, Ukiyo-e
> was used as wrapping paper in Japan; manuscripts are found in the spines
> of 19th-century and earlier books. Audiences - for Mez, my work, leet,
> Joyce, etc. etc. are complex and variable; Pound needs decoding
> (deliberately so), as does Chaucer (vagaries of changing language).
> Skaldic kennings are perhaps the densest linguistic form, and so forth.

Certainly even objects manufactured as art may not be recognised as art
in different contexts and may be later recovered. Ukiyo-e's import and
impact as wrapping paper is interesting IMO because it was recovered.
This recoverability interests me. I like Art & Language's comment about
the "impertinence" of objects that *look* like art.

I'd love to create a computer simulation of a world in which it was
possible to move a Urinal from the non-art to art contexts and back
again to see how its inhabitants react, but that's both science fiction
and probably slightly cruel. :-)

>> 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 thinking there are numerous aesthetics re: proof theory, nothing
> unified there, especially since the digital computer and crowd-sourcine
> have been brought (literally) into the equation/s. Things like surreal
> numbers and infinitesimals I'd think would cloud any ideality at least,
> in more fundamental ways than Brouwer's intuitionism (which seemed
> sloppy to me).

An aesthetic sense or instinct or imperative, then?

>> 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.
> Again, it depends on audience; the integration may or may not be
> necessary; certainly, for example, among Chinese classical painters,
> there were wide variations in their and others' writings in relation to
> the work - there's no one way at all.

There is inertia and overlap though.

If we step back to a realm where there is no art and only audience
capabilities applied to various objects, then those capabilities become
the proper subjects of the study of art history or theory.

Despite having read a lot of history of art recently that all but
dissolves the concept in its sociohistorical determinants like a tooth
in cola I'm still interested in A&L's "impertinent" objects.

> Again it depends on audience; when I was writing early on about codework
> and even now, it seemed natural that code was a medium just as for
> example re: Venet, the classical mathematical/scientific lecture could
> be a medium or with Cadere, the staff could be a medium. I'm more
> interested in the openness of these approach, perhaps the aha! or wow!
> factor, or the now old idea of making the familiar strange, or
> re-making, than I am in definitions from within fields; if a programmer
> feels that code/programming is never art, "unless," or "with the
> requirements that" etc. - that's fine with me; it doesn't affect my
> practice, nor does my practice affect her or him. Fwiw, my own codework
> (a term I coined fwiw) uses code I either wrote myself, or in
> collaboration with others, or given to me on request; I find great
> beauty in the last (which connects to Chinese aesthetics even
> technically) that's little different than I found in other media. I
> remember Bob Bieliecki (who early on designed for Laurie Anderson)
> talking about the excitement felt using assembly language in trying to
> find the shortest expression for factorials. I imagine there's some of
> the same feelings among hackers - just the beauty of the exploit, or
> performative language, producing something miraculous, which we now take
> for granted - for example

I do like the idea of code given on request. I've only ever written
occasional code once, and I erased it after using its output.

I enjoy rewriting systems in different languages. It's a kind of
platonism, I guess. :-)

I'm currently tracking down old interactive multimedia CD-ROMs to run in
my Mac emulator, and I have Anderson's "Puppet Motel" on the list...

> k1% date
> Sun Jan 26 21:04:19 EST 2014
> - look at that! Just typing "date" connects us to the universe in a way
> absolutely inconceivable before digital media and code came along. (I
> know the roots are far messier than this; this is just my own sense of
> wonder.)

I do love that. And a sense of wonder is a big part of what it's all
about, for me.

Our networked computer systems synch their time over the network to
timeservers that synch to atomic clocks, and the concept of time then
gets a bit strange.

I keep trying to find the source for an old John Carmack quote in which
he describes having the epiphany that "time is just another event" in a
computer game.

- Rob.

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