Programming languages or code can be examined through numerous analytical lenses. This project is a critical analysis of WordPress, a prevalent web content management system, applying four modes of inquiry. The project draws on theoretical perspectives and areas of study in media, software, platforms, code, language, and power structures. The applied research is based on Critical Code Studies, an interdisciplinary field of study that holds the potential as a theoretical lens and methodological toolkit to understand computational code beyond its function. The project begins with a critical code analysis of WordPress, examining its origins and source code and mapping selected vulnerabilities. An examination of the influence of digital and computational thinking follows this. The work also explores the intersection of code patching and vulnerability management and how code shapes our sense of control, trust, and empathy, ultimately arguing that a rhetorical-cultural lens can be used to better understand code's controlling influence. Recurring themes throughout these analyses and observations are the connections to power and vulnerability in WordPress' code and how cultural, processual, rhetorical, and ethical implications can be expressed through its code, creating a particular worldview. Code's emergent properties help illustrate how human values and practices (e.g., empathy, aesthetics, language, and trust) become encoded in software design and how people perceive the software through its worldview. These connected analyses reveal cultural, processual, and vulnerability focal points and the influence these entanglements have concerning WordPress as code, software, and platform. WordPress is a complex sociotechnical platform worthy of further study, as is the interdisciplinary merging of theoretical perspectives and disciplines to critically examine code. Ultimately, this project helps further enrich the field by introducing focal points in code, examining sociocultural phenomena within the code, and offering techniques to apply critical code methods.
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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)
Jackson, Bryce, "Mapping the Focal Points of WordPress: A Software and Critical Code Analysis" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1581.