Software as Ideology

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Digression I just cut from a paper:

Hardware alone appears meaningless. When you gaze into an electric circuit, nothing gazes back into you. Software’s visual environments seem to be the real point of access – in particular, operating systems populated by desktops and recycling bins (Chun, “On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge,” 43). Transistors are not represented on the screen here. This is not to say that software exists independent from hardware. In fact, the basic function of hardware is to emit “signifiers of voltage differences” (Kittler, “There Is No Software,” 150). What connects hardware and software is then a “functional analogy to ideology” (43). Continue reading “Software as Ideology”

“It is Raining”: A Philosophy of the Digital Stream (new intro)

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“It is raining,” philosopher Louis Althusser writes. These words: a declaration; a marked change in the world outside; an announcement about the rain felling outside Althusser’s room at the Sainte-Anne clinic in late 1982. Only then, two years after his scandalous psychotic fit, did he begin writing again.[1] Peering through the window to outside, Althusser ended his dry spell with a book “before all else,” “about ordinary rain.”[2] Such ordinary rain is not the common sense notion of rain that pertains to water falling from the sky. Althusser’s rain is far more commonplace: it is the underground current of materialism that runs through the history of philosophy (“The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter,” 167). This watershed year also marked the emergence of another type of rain, which is seen through an altogether different window. 1982 was the year Time magazine named “the computer” its personal of the year. Three decades later, we now watch the streams that rush across our digital screens.

Continue reading ““It is Raining”: A Philosophy of the Digital Stream (new intro)”