ok! In benedict anderson’s work imagined communities - nations or nationalisms - became collective sentiments via print literature associated with print capitalism that disseminated the same ideas to many people in many places at different times in a language that people understood. The language and the story in print were static but not the interpretation and the context. Latin was the language of the elite; luther’s bible was religion for the masses which bypassed the power of the clergy and the power brokers of the day. Radicalism, usurpation of power structures and popularization of religion among other things was possible across time and space. Interesting that the recitation of the koran is performed everywhere in its original language and coles notes are not necessarily welcome as this is interpretation not the texte!
but that is not what i want to talk about.
i want to talk about the imagined communities - the collective sentiments created between and among those who speak specific computer languages. What are the collective imaginings, cultures, values, solidarities between and among those that read, write, translate and compile code? What are the different modes of thinking and paradigms associated with these. The most obvious ideological differences are between open and proprietary code writers. Are their pearl, php, java, mms, mapobj, GRASS etc. subcultures? What are their values? Which ones give you cred? Who else speaks what you speak and what do you have in common with them ideologically if anything? What standards and specifications do you follow, avoid and promote? Why? And what cultures and subcultures emerge as a result and what are their degree of social and technical influence?
latin and greek were the written language of high ranking members of the clergy, monarchies, and their scribes. Computer languages are those of engineers, self taught geeks, mostly men, primarily western and white but not all. They are a minority of the world’s population that are actively engaged in and influence most of what we do in the world today. Almost everything! The power that this group brokers is unbelievable! One could argue that their power is diffused and distributed and mediated and moderated by those who pay them to write code or the groups for whom these groups write for and the modularity of code writing itself. Yet, these multiple projects are written in languages which enact all sorts of performativities in social space that non engineers cannot decipher, study, critically examine, explore and/or compare. We perform in what the code enacts! These languages and their associated constructs construct much or our contemporary world! They are the infrastructure, their ubiquity, dependencies, invisibility and complexity are indicators of infrastructureness (michael’s word) yet we do not have a social, public, cultural enigma machine to decrypt their messages!
i dunno what more to say right now except that i just realized, probably naively, that the ubiquity of the invisible code in our lives is something we need to collectively reflect upon and i would love for the code writers to be a part of that reflexive process! i would like a public discussion about something we are mostly oblivious to but which affects us all!
Wholly schmokes! I am never going to get any sleep now!
This is the paper that got me going - The Performativity of Code: Software and Cultures of Circulation by Adrien Mackenzie in Theory, Culture and Society. 2005, 22, 71. Let me know if you want a copy!