[Notes are a little brief b/c read principally on iPad.]
Frabetti is attempting no less than a major intervention into the ontological project of software studies. She is partially successful. I appreciate the clear-headed analysis in the introduction re: the state of the field of software studies: the “ambivalence” or “circular movement” “between the technical and the social” is a great way to put the push and pull of software studies approaches (xv).
Frabetti’s approach is two-fold: first, she relies heavily on classical “theory,” i.e., deconstruction. This is a Derridean reading through and through. Second, she draws on a decade as a software engineer for unabashedly technical readings.
Her definition of “software” is idiosyncratically broad: “the totality of all computer programs as well as all the written texts related to computer programs” (xx). This allows her to develop a theory of software from an analysis of writing.
To sketch the book:
1) She begins with the question of whether Western metaphysics has a working theory of technology and concludes that in the Aristotelian model, no; but that there is a second tradition (mostly Heidegger, Stiegler, and Derrida) for whom the human is the “originary technicity.”
2) Against Hayles, software is not beyond metaphysics, but rather, as language, materially inhered. This materiality continually does and undoes the boundaries of “software” itself as writing.
3) She then moves into an historical argument, showing how in the 1960s software emerges as a “thing” (cf. Chun). Software engineering emerges as an attempt to control the material fallibility of software objects.
4) She moves into the 70s and 80s, arguing that software engineering becomes “a discipline for the management of time” (xxv). She moves into the open source era to introduce the question of politics: open source reproduces the 60’s framework of instrumentality.
(Look, my grandmother died and I just don’t have the energy right now. I think this is a relatively minor book all things said and done. It’s mostly high theory which is interested but fundamentally unreadable. It also depends on a knowledge of mostly Stiegler that I don’t have.)