Code.surface || Code.depth

by Rita Raley

This essay begins by identifying a central idea in the critical discourse on code art and code poetry: code is a deep structure that instantiates a surface. The AP Project’s Jonathan Kemp and Martin Howse, for example, explain that their work makes “manifest underlying systematics,” that can make the digital “physical, audible and visible through geological computing.” In what sense, if at all, can we trace a computing operation down to a foundation, bottom, or core? Why do we maintain this cultural imaginary of code and how has it come into being? Moreover, how have the metaphors of software engineering – particularly the notion of structured layers and multitier architectures – been put to artistic use? The thematizing of layers, surfaces, and spatial metaphors has become quite intricate in new media writing practices, as I will demonstrate in a reading of “Lascaux.Symbol.ic,” one of Ted Warnell’s Poems by Nari, and recent projects by John Cayley, including Overboard and Translation. These readings, among others, will point to a logical tension between, on the one hand, the discourse of the foundational architecture of code, a “geological computing” that mines the depths to produce a geology (or a mythology) of surface and, on the other, the discourse of computational code in terms of inaccessible, inscrutable processes.

1. Code.surface || Code.depth
2. Lascaux.Symbol.ic
3. Reading code
4. Overboard
5. Translation
6. Writing for complex surfaces
7. Black boxing code

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