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DepositReading Culture through Code

The analysis of source code is an emerging approach to interpreting digital texts. This chapter introduces the methodologies of Critical Code Studies (CCS), situates it within the landscape of media and technology studies, and models the interpretive practices through a few case studies to demonstrate how understanding source code can enrich readings of technoculture through electronic texts.

DepositOne Hundred Thousand Billion Processes: Oulipian Computation and the Composition of Digital Cybertexts

Scholars of, or interested in, rhetoric have an opportunity to build upon the emerging body of work from the fields of software studies and critical code studies in order to explore the potential for meaning-making made possible through code and its expression(s). Over the last decade, rhetoric has significantly expanded to incorporate image, sound, video, and game play into its domain, especially in regards to rhetorical acts facilitated by computers. However, there has been relatively little scrutiny of the rhetorical value and agency of the procedural structures on which these acts are constructed. In order to draw attention to how code works rhetorically, this article examines three Oulipian “cybertexts,” works that a) are more interested in the “potential” texts they can create than the importance of any particular outcomes, and b) demonstrate their underlying mechanisms as integral components of their expression. There are several key observations for rhetoricians to be gained from these examinations, and the most notable is the capacity for action made possible through their composition in code and through their expressive performances. Each cybertext conveys meaning through its potential to induce change in human and technological audiences through the code and natural languages that comprise it.

DepositThe Reality Code: Interpreting Aggregate Larp Rules as Code that Runs on Humans

Aggregate larp rules are a type of code that runs on humans. Code can be thought of as a linguistic form that is both declarative and imperative; it is both truth and command (Buswell 2009). In aggregate larp, elements of the game’s diegesis are rendered codic, or playable, allowing players a degree of autonomy from game staff. Through the methodologies of Critical Code Studies (Marino 2006)—the reading of code (code as text) and the annotation of code (code as manuscript)—the interpretation of larp rules as “code that runs on humans” takes form, allowing us to read game encounters as programs, players and staff as programmers, rulebooks as programming languages, and rule structures as platforms. In larp code, a DBMS-style relational model lends the code depth and specificity. Aggregate larp rules descend from tabletop RPGs, which emerged in tandem with the workplace proliferation of DBMS in the 1970s. With larp code and computer code, the social practice of standardization plays a role in shaping the code. With both types of code we also see the emergence of proprietary code. Social apparatuses (Althusser 1970) ensure that larp code maintains its integrity as truth-command. The repeated reinforcement of social apparatuses lead players to experience a process of rules reification, leading the larp code to eventually take on a typeof psychological reality. This phenomenon may have a neurological origin. The study of larp code provides a framework to approach “real world” power structures such as “gender,” “race,” and “capital.”

MemberMark C. Marino

Mark C. Marino is a writer and scholar of digital literature living in Los Angeles. He is  the Director of Communication of the Electronic Literature Organization (http://eliterature.org). His works include “Living Will,” “a show of hands,” and  “Marginalia in the Library of Babel.” He was one of ten co-authors of 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (http://10print.org) (MIT 2013) and was a collaborator with Jessica  Pressman and Jeremy Douglass on Reading Project: A Collaborative Analysis of William Poundstone’s Project for Tachistoscope {Bottomless Pit} (Iowa Press 2015). Mark is currently working with his two children on a series of interactive children’s stories  entitled Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching) at the University of Southern California where he directs the Humanities and Critical Code Studies (HaCCS) Lab (http://haccslab.com). His complete portfolio is here: http://markcmarino.com

DepositVibrant Material Textuality: New Materialism, Book History, and the Archive in Paper

I look to the ways material text studies might be prompted by, and improve upon, thinking in new materialism. The result is that paper could be read for how histories and narratives seep into the paper record and require accounts of agentic materiality lest they be lost or muted. In what follows, I use stories about rag paper as points of departure for thinking about the material turn in both contemporary theoretical discourse and book history together. Both, I think, attempt to understand the meanings and effects of material actors. Taken together, however, they can provide greater insight into the meanings of texts as objects, and a more complete sense of what is in our archives. Finally, I argue that book history’s disciplinary habits of moving between a text’s material presence, or bibliographic code, and its linguistic code, might provide a model for literary critics pondering current theoretical work in new materialism and the agency of things.