July 20 2022
Have been having trouble setting up a git repository on the server to upload my posts. It's been very frustrating, though I think that's a result not just of tech issues but also a sore throat and a long work day. Wish I could have attempted this with a fresh head...
Over the past couple days I have been reading from Mark Marino's Critical Code Studies as well as Geoff Cox and Winnie Soon's Aesthetic Programming – the latter on renewed recommendation from fellow resident Mateus! Both are full of stimulating prompts around the expansion of code or coding practices beyond the domains of capital.
Notes from Critical Code Studies by Mark Marino
As code reaches more and more readers and as programming languages and methods continue to evolve, we need to develop methods to account for the way code accrues meaning and how readers and shifting contexts shape that meaning.
I think of how, lacking a formal or consistent program of learning for code, I return to fundamentals over and over. Making a custom Neopets page, tweaking a Tumblr theme, an intro to coding university class, freecodecamp.org... each time the code recontextualised with a patina of experiences. As with poems: a line in a draft repurposed, an epigraph, the sociality of the cento...
...to read code critically is to explore the significance of the specific symbolic structures of the code and their effects over time if and when they are executed (after being compiled, if necessary), within the cultural moment of their development and deployment. To read code in this way, one must establish its context and its functioning and then examine its symbols, structures, and processes, particularly the changes in state over the time of its execution.
How do creative expressions of code refer to and change the cultural contexts of their deployment? Each year for Toolkits I re-read Louise Druhle's Critical Atlas of Internet and feel like to host a website is just a feeble ember within the engulfing void of the aggregator internet.
The focus of CCS is not on making code that has aesthetic value and additional meaning but on a view of code as already having meaning beyond its functionality because it is a form of symbolic expression and interaction.
Before our poems can apply the affordances of HTML or CSS as we would the devices of rhyme or meter, we need to acknowledge a kind of poeticism inherent to all that we code against the pursuit of capital gain (related: Melanie Hoff's declaration Always Already Programming)
The goal need not be code analysis for code’s sake, but analyzing code to better understand programs and the networks of other programs and humans they interact with, organize, represent, manipulate, transform, and otherwise engage. Reading code functions as an entry point to reading culture.
Reading poetry functions as an entry point to reading culture. Two windows that open out from the middle.
Notes on Aesthetic Programming by Geoff Cox and Winnie Soon
[on the book] ...It is not meant to be read to simply learn to code nor to offer critical reflection upon the practice of coding alone, instead it offers something more messy and at the same time more “useful” we would say: a book about the more complex and deeply entangled set of relations between writing, coding and thinking.
Very excited to look to the browser poems I am finding for insights into this entangled set of relations 💞🤓
The argument the book follows is that computational culture is not just a trendy topic to study to improve problem-solving and analytical skills, or a way to understand more about what is happening with computational processes, but is a means to engage with programming to question existing technological paradigms and further create changes in the technical system. We therefore consider programming to be a dynamic cultural practice and phenomenon, a way of thinking and doing in the world, and a means of understanding some of the complex procedures that underwrite and constitute our lived realities, in order to act upon those realities.
I think that poetry, at once "useless and corrupting" according to Plato (via Ben Lerner), as an outcome of coding is deeply supportive of this view of aesthetic programming as a mode to understand and intervene in the dominant technocultural paradigm.
We believe that paying attention to fundamental, or key, concepts from programming provides the opportunity to open up new insights into aesthetics and critical theory, as well as new perspectives on cultural phenomena increasingly bound to computational logic. In this way, although aware that we inhabit the problem, we think it important to work in this way, from the inner workings of software and its material conditions. By extending the discussion beyond formal logic to its outside, we also emphasize the usefulness of artistic practice for opening up more speculative, alternative, and messy imaginaries.
Beginning from the inner workings of software and its material conditions... how might these experiences manifest in browser poems? I think of Noah Levenson's Stealing Your Feelings, how technology as medium is positioned to interrogate itself. Are others doing this? How? Is it effective, or does it at some stage risk being co-opted by the systems it seeks to pierce?
I need to sit down and write about some actual browser poems! Thinking about potentially writing an entry log covering several poems by the same artist, as a way of delving a little deeper. Also saying this here as a way of holding myself somewhat to account... good night!