Texts, technology, philosophy, computing, programming, code, software
Beliefs about the relationship between human beings and computing machines and their destinies have alternated from heroic counterparts to conspirators of automated genocide, from apocalyptic extinction events to evolutionary cyborg convergences. Many fear that people are losing key intellectual and social abilities as tasks are offloaded to the everywhere of the built environment, which is developing a mind of its own. If digital technologies have contributed to forming a dumbest generation and ushering in a robotic moment, we all have a stake in addressing this collective intelligence problem. While digital humanities continue to flourish and introduce new uses for computer technologies, the basic modes of philosophical inquiry remain in the grip of print media, and default philosophies of computing prevail, or experimental ones propagate false hopes. I cast this as-is situation as the post-postmodern network dividual cyborg, recognizing that the rational enlightenment of modernism and regressive subjectivity of postmodernism now operate in an empire of extended mind cybernetics combined with techno-capitalist networks forming societies of control. Recent critical theorists identify a justificatory scheme foregrounding participation in projects, valorizing social network linkages over heroic individualism, and commending flexibility and adaptability through life long learning over stable career paths. It seems to reify one possible, contingent configuration of global capitalism as if it was the reflection of a deterministic evolution of commingled technogenesis and synaptogenesis. To counter this trend I offer a theoretical framework to focus on the phenomenology of software and code, joining social critiques with textuality and media studies, the former proposing that theory be done through practice, and the latter seeking to understand their schematism of perceptibility by taking into account engineering techniques like time axis manipulation. The social construction of technology makes additional theoretical contributions dispelling closed world, deterministic historical narratives and requiring voices be given to the engineers and technologists that best know their subject area. This theoretical slate has been recently deployed to produce rich histories of computing, networking, and software, inform the nascent disciplines of software studies and code studies, as well as guide ethnographers of software development communities. I call my syncretism of these approaches the procedural rhetoric of diachrony in synchrony, recognizing that multiple explanatory layers operating in their individual temporal and physical orders of magnitude simultaneously undergird post-postmodern network phenomena. Its touchstone is that the human-machine situation is best contemplated by doing, which as a methodology for digital humanities research I call critical programming. Philosophers of computing explore working code places by designing, coding, and executing complex software projects as an integral part of their intellectual activity, reflecting on how developing theoretical understanding necessitates iterative development of code as it does other texts, and how resolving coding dilemmas may clarify or modify provisional theories as our minds struggle to intuit the alien temporalities of machine processes.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities
Bork, John, "Critical Programming: Toward a Philosophy of Computing" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1356.