Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Programmed Visions: Software and Memory


Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

The MIT Press, ISBN: 978-0262015424, 256 pages, 2011, English
Programmability as ideology. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is originally discussing how the unavoidability of networked computation in our society has permeated its own basic functioning principles and structures and the social potential consequences of the ephemerality of software. Furthermore the “ambiguity and specificity” of software make it a “thing” especially for the relationships it enables, including what the author defines as “cycles of obsolescence and renewal” or the alternating of exaggerated booming economies driven by technologies and then their dramatic falls. So software is deeply characterized by a strong ambiguity which can be summarized in its legible and simultaneously inscrutable nature: its code can be read, but what a computer exactly does at a given moment is too complex to understand. The author composes provocative questions in this respect like “what would a picture of the whole Internet look like?.” The book results as one of the most innovative analysis in software studies, dealing with different crucial issues. It’s enlightening to read that the “coalescence of the visible with the invisible makes human-computer interaction so attractive” or that “interfaces seem to concretize our relation to invisible (or barely visible) ‘sources’ and substructures”. The intrinsic power and astonishing extension of software is poetically expressed, including provocative parallels. The effect of Programmed Vision is to take software at its core but exploding its consequences in plenty of strategic social and cultural directions.