Another book that I had to truncate a bit, just as I did with the Digital Labor book. Anthologies are difficult to pace.
The introduction frames its contents as the “stuff” of software, which is interesting given that this is coming in 2008 b/c it’s fairly dematerialized: the “stuff” is protocol, code, glitch, interface, etc.; there’s no hardware, which in a Kittlerian fashion would be the ultimate “stuff” (i.e., substance) of software. Rather, it argues for materiality “operative at many scales,” reminiscent of the later stack model (4).
But this is ultimately a cri de coeur for “software studies” as a field. This list has lots of such collections; indeed, that seems to be the chief value of the “edited collection”: to establish a field of inquiry as such: “Where is the rest of that criticism? Indeed, criticism with its undertones of morality or imperious knowledge might be better phrased as a questioning or setting in play. Yes, there is plenty of studiousness being dished up about what people do with software; there are big, fat, and rapidly remaindered books about how to write or use software. But we can’t find much of it that takes things at more than face value, or not nearly enough of it to understand the world as it is” (2).
“Hackability” is a key positive concept for this generation of thinkers: “Hackability is not in itself a magic bullet; it relies on skills, knowledge, and access, of making such things public and changing them in the process. Gathering together forms of knowledge that couple software with other kinds of thinking is hopefully a way of enlarging the capacity of hackability itself to be hacked from all directions” (4). Hacking is applied theory.
The computation of computational software is useful: “this project differs by, among other things, emphasizing the neglected aspect of computation, which involves the possibilities of virtuality, simulation, abstraction, feedback, and autonomous processes” (4).
“Computation establishes a toy world in conformity with its axioms, but at the same time, when it becomes software, it must, by and large (except for autonomous processes, such as Cron, the demon to execute commands to a schedule in a Unix system, or as exemplified in work such as Artificial Paradises) come into combination with what lies outside of code” (5).
“The area that has become known as software art is perhaps the most direct feed into this lexicon. This current of work, along with hacker culture, provides a means for bringing the generative, reflexive, and anarchist intelligence of art into compositional entanglement with the ostensibly ordered and self-sufficiently technical language, working patterns, and material of software” (8).