Like Pearls by Morehshin Allahyari is an animated and interactive mash-up of the Farsi spam Allahyari receives in her mailbox.
book – MIT Press – ISBN 9780262062749
Some years ago, Lev Manovich called for “software studies” to be established as an interdisciplinary field capable of re-thinking programmable media at the interface of cultural theory and computer science. Conceived partly against so-called speculative accounts of virtual reality and cyber-identities, this suggested re-orientation aimed for a denser materiality by foregrounding the technical composition of digital systems. Here, engineering documents were as likely a source of inspiration as Gilles Deleuze or Marshall McLuhan, resulting in a ‘material turn’ constituted by highly engaging work such as Alex Galloway’s protocological network theory or the more recent forensic hard drive analysis of Matthew Kirschenbaum. Software Studies: A Lexicon, edited by Matthew Fuller, should be considered as explicitly positioned in relation to this transition and its concerns. In a sense, the collection represents a broad mapping of those next generation programmer-theorists who have worked to establish this newfound rigor and sophistication. According to Fuller, there are two main reasons behind the title: it takes the form of a series of short studies, geared toward the stuff of software “in some of the many ways that it exists, in which it is experienced and thought through, and to show, by the interplay of concrete examples and multiple kinds of accounts, ‘the conditions of possibility’ that software establishes”. Secondly, it does so by applying perspectives from fields or disciplines that have traditionally had little concern with software directly, like philosophy, history or visual cultural studies. Comprised of dozens of entries around keywords (i.e. algorithm, codex, function, glitch, function, loop, variable), this lexicon provides a fascinating overview of an emerging field. With contributions from Jussi Parikka, Wendy Chun, Florian Cramer, Warren Sack, Adrian McKenzie, Nick Monfort, Friedrich Kittler, Olga Goriunova, Alexei Shulgin and Graham Harwood, Software Studies is an excellent and timely reference for artists, programmers or theorists who regularly work on or through the everyday code of digital machines.