The Link between Man and Program

The article “Digital Media Archaeology” by Noah Wardrip-Fruin attempts to dig into the methodology behind early digital literature. I found this sorting out of the intent of operation as a kind of strategy, which could help us better grip the digital artifacts we discover. Wardrip-Fruin’s example of Christopher Strachey’s Love Letter Generator gave me insight to the real humanity that, at first, seems lost behind machines. The background on Strachey and his father introduced tendencies belonging only to humans, that were applied in a digital medium. Though we have been discussing the relationship of content and platform in class, it wasn’t until this article that I connected that content isn’t just lone concepts, but concepts which were formed within the real life of a person. With the growing popularity of technology, and correspondingly digital media, it is easy to separate the media from reality, as many critics do. However, the link between man and program is one in the same; we as humans are temporal and ever-changing, just like the programs we create digitally. This relates with a discussion we had in class about how the codex is so sentimental to us because it is not temporal. It offers us a constant, something that will never change.

This reminded me of the opening statements in John Cayley’s article “Time Code Language: New Media Poetics and Programmed Signification”. Cayley asked the question, “What is the relationship of code and text in cultural objects that are classified as literary and that are explicitly programmed?” Cayley goes further by quoting Rita Raley’s claim that code is implicit, and, I inferred, text explicit. Stimulated by these statements, I thought the relationship of code to text is the same as the relationship between a person’s past and present. Code is embedded, as a person’s past experiences are within the brain. Though memories are implicit, they surface in present decision making without necessarily being explicit; the same as Raley claims of coding. Tying this theory back to Wardrip-Fruin’s article, the archaeology of digital projects is really an investigation of humanity and the strategies encoded both in the brain and on-screen.

One thought on “The Link between Man and Program

  1. I’m very intrigued by your idea that “the relationship of code to text is the same as the relationship between a person’s past and present.” I’m not sure it holds up entirely (code continues to operate and can even change in the present), but it’s worth thinking about more!

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