Perhaps you too are wondering if software is inher...
# reading-together
Perhaps you too are wondering if software is inherently spatial. A great paper on this topic is “Software is an Abstract Artifact” by Nurbay Irmak. I might not agree with everything written, but it is a very readable paper and a great introduction to the topic.
Software is a ubiquitous artifact, yet not much has been done to understand its ontological nature. There are a few accounts offered so far about the nature of software. I argue that none of those accounts give a plausible picture of the nature of software. I draw attention to the striking similarities between software and musical works. These similarities motivate to look more closely on the discussions regarding the nature of the musical works. With the lessons drawn from the ontology of musical works I offer a novel account of the nature of software. In this account, software is an abstract artifact. I elaborate the conditions under which software comes into existence; how it persists; how and on which entities its existence depends.
Getting nerd sniped... so to review... This is a good, fun, accessible paper. Does the important philosophical work of drawing fine distinctions. "I will argue, different concepts that are closely related to software such as algorithm, text, copy and execution of software ... are distinct objects and none of them can be identified with software." Does this while trying to stay close to "common beliefs and practices" rather than going off the deep end of redefining everything to push some point. And eventually concludes, "The existence of software [and musical works too] depend on certain other things, processes, and mental states such as physical copies, executions and memories. Software could be destroyed if all the things that its existence depends on are destroyed. Therefore, unlike other abstract objects, like numbers, propositions, concepts, etc. software is creatable and destructible thus it is not eternal entity."
Coming back to the instigating question, we better focus on what it means to be "inherently spatial." One sense is having a physical manifestation. In as much as software is a thing that runs on a computer distinct form the code, being connected to hardware is important. A "piece of software" is certainly distinct from individual copies. Do we put software on a computer the same way we put fire in a pit? Another sense is that software (or maybe just programs) are spatial in the way geometry and topology is spacial, having some shape, measurement, dimension. And here I would distinguish between mathematical space and imaginative space. On the mathematical end we're talking about formal qualities and on the imaginative end, it's what people think of in their minds. Some of us imagine the structure and workings of a program in the same way we might imagine the structure and workings of a cell even though both are invisible to the naked eye.