Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression

October 30, 2020
Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression

The aesthetic and political implications of working with code asprocedure, expression, and action.Speaking Code begins by invoking the “Hello World” conventionused by programmers when learning a new language, helping toestablish the interplay of text and code that runs through thebook. Interweaving the voice of critical writing from thehumanities with the tradition of computing and softwaredevelopment, in Speaking Code Geoff Cox formulates an argument thataims to undermine the distinctions between criticism and practiceand to emphasize the aesthetic and political implications ofsoftware studies.Not reducible to its functional aspects, program code mirrorsthe instability inherent in the relationship of speech to language;it is only interpretable in the context of its distribution andnetwork of operations. Code is understood as both script andperformance, Cox argues, and is in this sense like spokenlanguage—always ready for action.Speaking Code examines the expressive and performative aspectsof programming; alternatives to mainstream development, fromperformances of the live-coding scene to the organizational formsof peer production; the democratic promise of social media andtheir actual role in suppressing political expression; and themarket's emptying out of possibilities for free expression in thepublic realm. Cox defends language against its invasion byeconomics, arguing that speech continues to underscore the humancondition, however paradoxical this may seem in an era of pervasivecomputing.