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a resource for reading code
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As digital humanitarians continue to turn their attention to the software and hardware that shape culture, the interpretation of source code offers a rich set of symbols and processes for exploration.

Critical Code Studies names the practice of explicating the extra-functional significance of source code. Rather than one specific approach or theories, CCS names a growing set of methodologies that help unpack the symbols that make up software. While still in its initial state, this nascent area of study has been growing rapidly over the course of 2010.

Following the massively successful Critical Code Study Working Group, we will be gathering at USC for a one-day conference to present readings of code. We are currently exploring the innovative publication of conference proceedings through Vectors and others partnerships.

[ Mark Marino's introduction to CCS on ebr ]

[ CCS Coverage in USC news ]

Welcoming the 2012 participants in the Critical Code Studies Working Group 2012: Ben Allen Patsy Baudoin Sandy Baldwin John Bell Paul Benzon David M. Berry Michael Black Stephanie Boluk Philippe Bootz Mez Breeze Kevin Brock James J. Brown, Jr. Evan Buswell micha cardenas Hugh Cayless David M. Cecchetto Scott Dexter Craig Dietrich Jeremy Douglass Kevin Driscoll Max Feinstein Paul Fishwick Leonardo Flores Federica Frabetti Alex Gil Matthew K. Gold Kevin Gotkin Wayne G [...]


reposted from HASTAC blogs: Poet Amy Sara Carroll of the Electronic Disturbance Theater said something quite provocative and evocative via Skype during a discussion of the patently provocative Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) at USC last Friday.  Actually it wasn't something she said but a combination of statements that has set my mind into this thread.First, she said that she had told (Poet) Brett Stalbaum that the code was the poetry of the project (despite the fact that she has writte [...]


(I invite your feedback on this rough answer to a computer scientist asking about CCS interpretation. What follows is directed more toward computer scientists but should contain enough simplification to enrage everyone.) When I approach programmers about interpreting their code, a wry smile loads on their lips. After a bit of discussion, it becomes clear that they expect me to read their code as a high school English class would read a poem by Keats or a sonnet by Shakespeare. The smile a [...]


[Cross-posted from HaCCSLab] The Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab is the first university space to pursue the exploration of the interpretation of computer source code using the methodologies of Critical Code Studies. Based at the University of Southern California, the HaCCS Lab will promote the development of critical vocabulary, case studies, and cross-disciplinary dialogue, specifically between the humanities and computer science. According to the essay that initiated the f [...]


I'm excited to announce the arrival of the proceedings from the first ever Critical Code Studies conference, which took place at USC last summer. The conference featured keynote speaker Wendy Chun and a host of prominent scholars, many of whom are present in the conversation taking place on HASTAC right now. The proceedings include the text and video from each presentation and panel at the conference. Find the proceedings at: You'll notice tha [...]


Critical Code Studies made its return to MLA 2011 on a tidal wave of Digital Humanities panels. But it was "Close Reading the Digital" that offered the most explicit connections. Organized by Jeremy Douglass and Matt Kirschenbaum, who served as respondent, the panel featured Jim Brown, Mark Sample, and myself. We will post related materials here. Here are the slide in .pdf form: Transborder Immigrant Tool Talk MLA. Below I offer a few notions from the presentation and an extension of the [...]


At the recent MLA conference, I was part of a panel called "Close Reading the Digital" with Jeremy Douglass, Mark Sample, Mark Marino, and Matt Kirschenbaum. Mark Sample recently posted a version of his talk, "Criminal Code: The Procedural Logic of Crime in Video Games," so I thought I'd do the same. This is a condensed version of my talk, and it is part of both an article manuscript and a book project entitled "Ethical Programs: Rhetoric and Hospitable Code." Also, if you're interested in loo [...]


Missed out on the Critical Code Studies Working Group? The first week of discussion from the Critical Code Studies Working Group has just been published on electronic book review! For six weeks last Spring, over 100 scholars from around the world convened to discuss many facets of Critical Code Studies -- for example, how do we read code? What code is worth reading? These and myriad other questions were flushed out in six weekly discussions, each kicked off by different presenters offering un [...]


Announcing a 1-Day conference on Critical Code Studies at the University of Southern California Critical Code Studies @ USC July 23, 2010 Hosted by The Center for Transformative Scholarship & The Institute for Multimedia Literacy Keynote: Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Brown University [ Conference Website ] As digital humanitarians continue to turn their attention to the software and hardware that shape culture, the interpretation of source code offers a rich set of symbols and processes for [...]


To wrap-up Stephen Ramsay's video, I've put together one of my own.


//Week 4 Summary //Here's what CCSWG members should know about Weeks 4 and 5 #include<iostream.h> int future (week5, thread editor) { cout<<"In Week 5, Stephen Ramsay will be presenting his live commentary on live coding.  We've debated code as performative, now we examine coding as performance."; //We're still looking for one more thread editor. Please contact Mark Marino if interested. cin >> editor; return 0; } int main (week4) { cout<<"Wendy Chun' [...]


Coming up: Week 4, Wendy Chun, Brown University Looking forward to Week 4, CCS itself will be under inspection with Wendy Chun’s reading on the first chapter of her forthcoming book about software. Through her critical lens, we'll examine the ontology of computers "by exploiting the unexpected possibilities of source code as fetish." The scope of our discussions will expand to encompass more than the hands-on code critiques that have been central to the group so far -- we will ask: what are [...]


Week 2 ushered in a host of new discussion topics and code critiques. Here’s a recap on recent activity, and a look at what’s to come: Week 3: Guest Speaker, Dennis Jerz, Seton Hill Exciting news! Jeff Young, senior writer for Wired Campus, featured Critical Code Studies in his most recent article “Scholars Use Social-Media Tools to Hold Online Academic Conference.” Check out the story and see what all the buzz is about. Highlights of last week’s presentation: Jeremy Dou [...]


Week 1 has been such a success! As we approach the start of Week 2, we look back on what has happened so far. Week 2: Guest Speaker, Jeremy Douglass, UCSD A quick look at the working group's statistics for the week Members: 97 Code critiques: 15 Bibliographic entries: 80+ entries Replies to the Week 1 presentation: 67 Code Critiques: Telamon, John Bell Strange Code, David M. Berry 4K> code competitions, David M. Berry De-OMG-ifying Rails, Hugh Cayless technésexual Puredata [...]


Announcing the Critical Code Studies Working Group February 1-March 12, 2010 Call for participants in an online working group in Critical Code Studies. Faculty Participants and Guest Speakers include: David M. Berry, Swansea University Benjamin Bratton, UC San Diego Mez Breeze, netwurker, Wendy Chun, Brown University Jeremy Douglass, UC San Diego Aden Evans, Dartmouth Susan Garfinkel, UMD and LOC Andrew Goffey, Middlesex Federica Frabetti, Oxford Brookes U [...]


In addition to the CCS blog, about which you may be aware, there are several means of pursuing Critical Code Studies information online. 1) Twitter Hashtag. For quick, up-to-the-minute CCS news, follow the #critcode hashtag, that we will soon be adding to the blog itself. 2) Zotero group To build a critical code studies reading list, we have been adding texts to the the CCS library here. Please join and contribute. 3) and diigo tags critical_code_studies is the standard [...]


CCS scholars should send their abstracts and proposals to the Electronic Literature Organizations 2010 conference at brown. ELO AI, June 3-6, 2010 at Brown, will offer an opportunity for readings of software art and code object of the literary kind. While CCS can speak to any encoded object, these digital-born literary objects in many ways make the interpretive work easy. Or perhaps that goes too far. Literary code objects, such as codework, are written to be read in a way that typical [...]


Critical Code Studies, the blogging community, celebrates 2 years of existence. The blog was born of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference in Maine (SLSA 07). A confluence of scholars and artists at that conference, which was on the theme of "Code," engaged in critical reading of code and encoded objects, such as software. At this years SLSA, themed "decodings," recollects many of those original members, and offers an opportunity to consider how CCS has grown. CCS [...]


[by Stephen Ramsay] It would be hard to imagine the computer revolution without acronyms.  Back in the day, the mere fact that you manufactured computers meant that you could no longer be a corporation that made "digital equipment" -- still less an international purveyor of "business machines."  Since then, we've been subjected to a seemingly endless stream of acrostics, mesostics, backronyms, and antiphons, all of which are meant to condense complex descriptions into tight bits of marketin [...]


(More fundamentals of Critical Code Studies) What is the edge between math and code? Where does Critical Code Studies end and Critical Math Studies begin. Well, I'm not willing to make such exclusionary moves just yet. But while I know there has been good work by the likes of Brian Rottman and others, looking at mathematical entities as small as the 0, for me, code gets most interesting when it has a little more to it than an equation might have. Just what is that more? To answer thi [...]


In John Cayley's essay "Coding as Practice," he alludes to, without directly referencing, the Critical Code Studies manifesto. He notes the line of caution: The general point I wish to make concerning the critical study of writing digital media is basically a point of persuasion, to try and convince you that there is no critical harm or „loss of cachet‟ or „special insight‟ in treating coding as a distinct practice. I am not saying that writers don‟t or can‟t code or that [...]


{As Critical Code Studies amps up for the academic year, I'm beginning a series of posts on the foundations of critical code studies. Prepare for more frequent posts, new members to the CCS blog, and a high level of CCS Tweeting --> I'll report back on the Hashtags. Come and play!} Foundations of CCS 1.0: High and Low-Level Programming languages In computer science a metaphorical hierarchy describes how much natural language is in a particular programming language. If the language is d [...]


In their article, "The Early Deveopment of Programming Languages," Donald E. Knuth and Luis Trabb conclude their article with computer code: The TPK alogrithm in the "international algebraic language," also known as ALGOL. TPK here stands for Trabb-Pardo Knuth. This was a kind of "Hello, World" program (according to the Wik), although it seems more a kin to the WRT idea of benchmarking, not so much can you do this initial act, as how does this programming language express this set of proces [...]


(This begins a series of posts on the rudimentary elements of computing, inspired by Matthew Fuller's Software Studies book and a review of an Introduction to Computer Science Course.) On Efficiency Efficiency is more than the end of computational practice, more than a God, more than an exquisite delight, it is the chimera, the holy grail, the pwnership, the rad ollie, the be all and end all of most programming challenges for to find the more efficient solution is to find the better soluti [...]


This is just a head up about the next big even in Critical Code Studies and Software Studies: Wed. panel at Digital Humanities 2009: Wednesday, June 24th University of Maryland 9:00-10:30am Charles Carroll Room Critical Code and Software Studies Mark Christopher Marino, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Jeremy Douglass, Elizabeth Losh, Stephanie August Liz has posted her slides here. More to follow. Tweeting under #dh09 tags.


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Jeremy Douglass and Noah Wardrip-Fruin are chairing a theme at Digital Arts and Culture 2009 on Software Studies that invites proposals for papers on Critical Code Studies as well. The conference will be held at UC Irvine, dates TBA: See the full call: Software is the engine that drives cyberculture, new media, and digital art - a layer of control and communication that permeates contemporary culture. Platforms are the hardware and software relationships that enable and constrain software [...]


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Here is a must read resource for Critical Code Studies from a conference that certainly embodied much of the CCS ethos just as it marked the advent of serious CCS work: Ars Electronica 2003. Code-The Language of Our Time Code=Law Code=Art Code=Life Some enticing titles of the pieces (the subject of future posts) CODE - The Language of Our Time Code Equals Law Some Code to Die For The Meaning of Code And the list of familiar authors: Friedrich Kittler, Howard Rheingold, Pie [...]


Matt Kirschenbaum continues to bring the higher education into the 21st-century, with his recent article, Where Computer Science and Cultural Studies Collide. Matt contextualizes CCS as part of a broader move toward interdisciplinary critical work on computer science, something that no doubt will be a major theme of the Digital Humanities 2009 conference hosted at the University of Maryland. See what he says about Critical Code Studies: Critical Code Studies is the mantle of another group [...]


Matt Kirschenbaum has encouraged proposals of software studies and Critical Code Studies for the 2009 Digital Humanities conference. Read the call below or go to the website. Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations Digital Humanities 2009 Call for Papers Abstract Deadline: Extended to November 14, 2008 (Midnight GMT) All proposals should be submitted by uploading them to the ConfTool website. Presentations can include: * Single papers * Multiple paper sessions [...]


[CCS welcomes this gallery review from Jenna Ng.] Open Source Embroidery: Craft + Code An exhibition facilitated by Ele Carpenter HTTP Gallery, London, UK 1 May-15 June 2008 Iain Clarke’s PHP Embroidery (left) and Paul Grimmer’s Ether (swatch) (right) Everything [in the past] was made by hand in a down-to-earth way, just rubber-suits and mechanics. That was the power of it… It is a physical thing, and that is extremely important, because when you star [...]


San Diego will be the site of the Software Studies Initiative. Among the Critical Code Studies blog participants there will be Rita Raley and myself. Wednesday, May 21st, from 12:30-5:00pm, the Software Studies Initiative at UC San Diego invites you to attend a public event: SoftWhere: Software Studies Workshop 2008 Time: Wed. May 21 - Thu. May 22 Place: Calit2, University of California, San Diego Format: Open public session (Wed May 21, short presentations of research in [...]


Jenna Ng sends us the following announcement about an event that considers the threads between the handicraft of needlework and the patchwork of Open Source coding. We look forward to a report from Jenna on the exhibit. Open Source Embroidery: Craft and Code at HTTP Gallery An exhibition facilitated by Ele Carpenter Preview Friday 16th May 6-9pm 17th May 15th June 2008 Open Fridays to Sunday 12-5pm This exhibition explores the connections between the collabo [...]


[by Mez] doll_tre[ru]mor[s] = <<TREMORS <tremor name='the_5th_world'> <fracture> <fracture name='post2charinscription'> <polymers> <polymer var='user' val='YourDollUserName'/> <polymer var='3rdperson' val='Your3rdPerson'/> <polymer var='location' val='YourSoddenSelf'/> <polymer var='spikey' val='YourSpiKeySelf'/> </polymers> </fracture> <fracture name='post [...]


The website for N. Katherine Hayles' latest work New Horizons for the Literary just out from University of Notre Dame Press includes a an essay from David Shapard entitled, "Finding and Evaluating the Code." Shepard is a Ph.D. student who would no doubt fit in well with our work here at Critical Code Studies. The article offers useful definitions for Critical Code Studies, particularly revolving around the Electronic Literature Organization's ELC, volume 1, specifically referencing the wor [...]


Christy Dena sends us notice that the latest issue of Fibreculture journal has a few papers. All in all, an exciting edition, here are some key titles and abstracts. Cultural Roots for Computing: The Case of African Diasporic Orature and Computational Narrative in the GRIOT System - D. Fox Harrell Continuous Materiality Through a Hierarchy of Computational Codes - Kenneth J. Knoespel and Jichen Zhu "Experience and abstraction: the arts and the logic of machines" - Simon Penny [...]


This week, Critical Code studies welcomes its latest members, an exciting mix of computer scientists, cyberculture theorists, and electronic artists. Here are the first three: Patrick Burgaud, Greg Elmer, and Elizabeth Swanstrom. More additions later this week. Contact us to join our research group. Patrick Burgaud Patrick Henri Burgaud was born in 1947. In 1992, he left education to devote all his time to artistic practice -- monumental poetry, land art, visual poetry -- his early wor [...]


Over at the literary theory blog, The Valve, a reader has posted the CCS Bat Signal, summoning CCS into action. The comment comes in a response to a post about Noah Wardrip-Fruin's new Grand Vet Auto experiment, a reader has suggested: Why not work out a theory of video game narrative using the logic and idiom of the object-oriented programming languages that are used to create the video games in the first place? Sounds like a job for Critical Code Studies. It remains to be seen to w [...]


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Books of Note and Java for n00bies One of our projects here at CCS will be to mention books that contribute to Critical Code Studies (adding them to our LibraryThing account). Scott Rosenberg's Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software offers some strong material history and reflection on development of a specific and open source piece of software, Mitch Kapor's Chandlor. It gives a glimpse at the shear amount of human and mac [...]


We have a growing body of technoculture critics and codework artists joining the Critical Code Studies collaborative Blog. Check out the full list below and consider joining our efforts or let us know about someone who might be interested in this work. CCS Bloggers (see their bios here) * Christian U Andersen * Sandy Baldwin * Gregory Bringman * Patrick Burgaud * Wendy Hui Kyong Chun * Christy Dena * Jeremy Douglass * Aden Evens * Daniel Howe [...]


Announcing the launch of a new collaborative blog titled Critical Code Studies . The blog is dedicated to exploring interpretations of computer code within cultural contexts. Rather than focusing primarily on making code function or even the pursuit of "beautiful" code, critical code studies brings in critical theory to examine the ways in which the lines of code reflect, shape, and reproduce our culture including aspects of class, gender, race, sexuality. These criticisms include both the co [...]


[Updated: 12/8/07] There's an exciting conversation over at Writer Response Theory about Critical Code Studies. Jeremy Douglass, who recently took on the position of the Software Studies postdoc at UCSD, proposed a Venn diagram to illustrate the relationship between Critical Code Studies and Software Studies. Jeremy seems to be beginning his post doc by trying to firm up some definitions. For Douglass, Software Studies and Critical Code Studies share some but not all interests. On t [...]


[Note: Mez joins Critical Code Studies! A forthcoming post will list all the current authors.] Writing in her "creole" poetic language, mezangelle, codework artist Mez will use Critical Code Studies to post her pieces in an effort to propel Critical Code Studies.  For a complete archive of Mez's ongoing poetic experiences, read her blog (] Select Self_in_fect.organelles formed by the sub_ego_organs of the first chavatar, if any. Visit the psych [...]


ELO's upcoming 2008 conference "Visionary Landscapes" would be an excellent opportunity to meet up and share some more CCS work, focusing this time on the "literary" and the "visionary." If you are still looking for a paper proposal, consider a Critical Code Studies reading of one of the works from the Electronic Literature Collection, many of which include their source code. We can use the blog to build discussion on whatever object you choose. Looking at the call (reproduced below), CCS w [...]


 To extend my presentation at SLSA '07, I offer the following set of resources: Codd, E.F. The relational model for database management: version 2 The redux version (and revised vision) of Codd's 1970 article. Manovich, Lev. "Database as Symbolic Form" Resource for developing interpretive use of database Chandler. "Introduction to Object-Oriented Databases" A clear concise description of Object-Oriented Databases, particularly defining their relation to Relational D [...]


This Friday at the 21st Annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts in Portland, Maine, Critical Code Studies will get a major extension. The theme of the entire conference is Code, taking into account computer code, genetic codes, cryptographs, and more. One panel on computer code in particular poses to extend the work of CCS under the auspices of "Code as Argument." The panel features: Nick Montfort and Michael Mateas  "Hammurabi's Code" Ian Bogost, "Pr [...]


Welcome to the new online resource for "Critical Code Studies." This blog will serve as site for discussions and links to further develop the practices of "Critical Code Studies." Over time, this site will amass an extensive bibliography for those engaging in Critical Code Studies, while at the same time acting as a hub for conversations about code.  Please joint the conversation and send your thoughts about code!


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