Critical Code Studies 2009-2010

Critical Code Studies, the critical interpretation of computer source code, was born on this blog (here and here). Several years, presentations, debates, annexations, blogs, and new allies later, I am back to announce that I’m turning up the heat on (& giving more bandwidth to) Critical Code Studies.

One of the crucial developments has been the parallel growth of Software Studies. Without speaking to the academic hierarchy of Critical Code Studies and, um, Software Studies, I would say that what’s good for Software Studies is good for Critical Code Studies. In San Diego last year, Lev Manovich, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, and WRT’s own Jeremy Douglass put on quite the tech studies smorgasbord, complete with Kate Hayles, some more GTxA-ers, Ian Bogost, and other notables.

Leaving that session, I was convinced Software Studies was materializing, and Matt Kirschenbaum’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education sealed the deal.

More Developments:

1. The Blog
Critical Code Studies is the blog dedicated to the practice. Although at this point it has 2 primary contributors, Mez and myself, the list of authors is quite long. Newest to the blog are Stephen Ramsay and Patsy Baudoin; however, you’ll see quite a few familiar names from Wendy Chun to Rita Raley. (BTW, take a look at Steve’s post about Beautiful Code on his own blog!)

The purpose of the blog is great a testbed and sounding board for all things Critical Code Studies. Recently, I’ve embarked on a series of posts dedicated to establishing some of the fundamentals of the field, currently, by examining edge cases between math (algebra), algorithms, and source code.

If you head over to the blog, you’ll notice a significant up-tick in the quantity and frequency of posts. Get ready!

2. Presentations
My presentations on Critical Code Studies have covered the following:
1. Introducing Critical Code Studies to MLA
2. Offering a case study in Critical Code Studies at SLSA
3. Wondering why there aren’t more good readings on code at Softwhere Studies (see my talk from that conference here.)
4. Offering a development of the first case study at Digital Humanities

In the last conference, we had quite the Twitter dust-up about whether CCS required one to be a programmer. After all that time, I’ve come to the opinion that learning about programming is essential to CCS work. (Of course, I think I always held that position — not that you could tell that from my answer. Here’s a reference to that discussion. )

Up next:
SLSA 09 & DAC 09: Offering yet another case study.

3. Writing
This will be a big writing year for Critical Code Studies. Among other projects, I plan to conduct a literature review on recent and past studies, building on the bibliography already in the ebr essay.

I also plan to develop a few of the case studies into full-length essays.

4. More Code to Study
I continue to find new extremely interesting examples of code. If you have source code that you think might make a good reading, please let me know.

Well, that’s just the start. But I do want to send the call out, an open invitation, to all those who are interested in (morbidly or otherwise) the project of critically interpreting computer source code. Come over to CCS and join the action. Or follow WRT and CCS for some exciting crossovers like this one or where Jeremy battles Wolverine.

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