Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Off

Between the Robots and Sunday night dinner I forgot to blog.

I am really doing badly with my daily deadlines and I attribute to my inability to stop writing code once I start. This morning I am not going to code. Instead I am going to finish some web design/business card designs and some writing that I started. I would like to also update my iphone firmware and download a flash card app so i can study kung fu.

I am redoing the chang projects website. I accidentally deleted the files the other day to I am redesigning practically from scratch. The good thing is that I am off tables forever and have totally converted to css (about 5 years after starting css). CSS is hard for me, because I have bad memories of div and layer problems in IE and Netscape from the dawn of the internet age.

I am exploring web hosting on the cloud via rackspace. This seems much cheaper than mediatemple's virtual server. I also bought a very cool url for my social networking software and I will probably be revealing it in a few days. The server in Lilongwe is down for 3 days because they are transferring ISPs. I have been communicating with the Ministry of Health, and there are massive problems with managing expectations. So, now, I am managing expectations and making people feel good. Tomorrow 13Bit is going to PA to interview a woman walking across the US to raise awareness for global warming.

Today I was reading "My Mother was a Computer" by Hayles. I was looking for inspiration to finish my song about the singularity and I think it did the trick. It is not a bad book, although I think it probably does not belong all in one book. Most interesting to me is the treatment of computer code as an art, and the discussion of code as performative. (Ah-hem I presented a paper on this in 03). Ok so this is a philosophical idea - Performative statements. I think AJ Ayers talks about it. So you look at something like marriage. The justice of the peace, by performing the marriage ceremony - by saying 'i now pronounce you man and wife' - has a meaning beyond pure linguistic communication. It is performative in that it changes the status of the couple hoping to be married. This statement 'does' something within our judicial system (unless you are a same sex couple) - but then you sort of enter the world of language game - the performance only takes place in a particular judical system.

So code is like saying 'you are man and wife' - it 'does' something. Code is performative.

Anyway, Hayles disregards the literary content of code, saying that the only meaning of code is the execution. This is myopic. The clearer the code the greater lifespan (ie more people will reuse it). Same goes for speed. In this case memory management could probably be sacrificed for speed unless you are developing for microcontrollers. The language of code perpetuates English language dominance since most code structure is written in English (I did not go to Brown so I dont use the word Hegemony).

To break it down there is
1) A poetics of code: This is the language of code, the names of your functions and variables, the types of patterns that you use, the architecture of your project. The clearer a book the easier it is to transmit information, same as code. Code is executed by a computer but it is compiled by a human. As long as humans are writing code, they will need to read something and the clearer and more elegant the the code is, the easier it is to communicate the ideas within the code.
2) An aesthetics of code: In thought aesthetics is truth. Truth is beauty or beauty is truth. In code speed is beauty. The elegance of a piece of code is the optimization of its algorithm.
3) A politics of code: Who can use the code. Copyright issues. Power structure. What sorts of metaphysical assumptions are built into software paradigms. How does the use of English perpetuate a certain western power structure? How do the rules of code perpetuate Aristotelian logic?
4) An ethics of code. What does code do? What ought it do? What constraints should we build to control the effects of code? Once we control 2nd (and 3rd and 4th) order effects our notion of ethics as a 1st order personal or interpersonal interaction must change.

This is all completely irrelevant in the face of horrible diseases that affect the bottom billion. I need to do more RapidSMS now.

I will post my singularity song soon

No comments:

Post a Comment