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Eli Mellen

08/16/2023, 11:29 AM
Introduction: Situating Critical Code Studies in the Digital Humanities
Critical code studies is the application of the hermeneutics of the humanities to the interpretation of the extra-functional significance of computer source code. “Extra” here does not mean “outside of” or “apart from” but instead it refers to a significance that is “growing out of” an understanding of the functioning of the code.
This piece also links to a few other interesting resources on the subject, including, the initial manifesto for critical code studies. I also liked this quote,
Still, reading code, even without interpreting its cultural significance, can be no easy task. Ask a professional programmer who inherits legacy code to maintain or, worse yet, to improve, and they will tell you about the dread of sorting out just-in-time code, minimally documented, written with hasty patches, full of compromises and workarounds. Even those who write their code in artistic projects can be shy about sharing their code out of embarrassment and self-consciousness. This shame is a product of the “encoded chauvinism” of programming culture, one that can be fostered on the internet as much as it is in classrooms [Marino 2020, 148].
an absolute banger of a quote from the manifesto,
Currently, all of computer code lies before us with single quotation marks preceding its lines. While we examine programming architecture and admire modularity and efficiency, the study of computer code does not currently emphasize interpretation, the search for and production of meaning. Even when aesthetics intervene, they come in the form of calls for stylistic clarity for more efficient modification and development. This emphasis on functionality neglects the meaning that code bears for its human audience. For code, especially mid- to high-level languages, exists not solely for computers, which could operate on machine language (essentially, representations of electronic signals), but for programmers as well. Therefore, the computer may be one recipient of the code but there is also the programmer, other programmers, and at times even users who have access to its text.