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Sourcery

This post is labelled “in progress” as it was written in one sitting, and is unedited.

After a sad setback, I am returning to working on the book and clarifying the theoretical approaches I will take to unite code, hermeneutics, phenomenology, culture, and communication. A very important work that I am now going through is Wendy Chun’s Programmed Visions. Here, I will reference her chapter “On Sourcery and Sourcecode”.

She notes how commercial and proprietary interests converted the act of programming as a service, temporal process, and verb, into fixed, knowable, ostensibly stable noun of the program. As such, the software program becomes “the end all and be all of computation and putting in place a powerful logic of sourcery that makes source code—which tellingly was first called pseudocode”. The code becomes limited by the actions of the software programmer. This, to my mind, can be contrasted with the multiple actions the source code can be extended to do if software allows for modification of the configuration files, for example. An example of this is the MPV player, which gives A/V audiences far more options than most “programs” as can be seen by the MPV wiki page on configuration files. Another example is PostmarketOS.

Chun describes software and computers as a “metaphor for metaphor itself”, which will I will relate to ideas of recursion, the problem of turtles all the way down, and the continued Stieglerian problem of the need to interpret life. Chun argues that code is not just run but compiled and. . . interpreted, not always logically equivalent (as I crudely sketched out in my post on lambda) but “focuses on the movement of data within the machine”. Logical equivalence, she writes, “can involve a leap of faith”: an approach that leads into my other work on how to iterate learning how to learn.

Through this approach to code, the roads to further learning are open. But, as Chun’s work shows—especially if we can take a Bakhtinian reading of it, the open interpretation of source code can be concealed and persuade us that it says only one thing when it could say many. And thus it also becomes a problem of security that fundamentally stems from the problems of language and interpretation.

Expanding on this last point is a key passage from Paul Ricoeur:

Language has lost its original unity. Today it is fragmented not only geographically into different communities but functionally into different disciplines—mathematical, historical, scientific, legal, psychoanalytics, etc. It is the function of a philosophy of language to recognize the specific nature of these disciplines and thereby assign each “language game” its due (as Wittgenstein would have it), limiting and correcting their mutual claims. Thus one of the main purposes of hermeneutics is to refer to the different uses of language to different regions of being – natural, scientific, fictional, etc. But this is not all. Hermeneutics is also concerned with the permanent spirit of language [by which we intend] the capacity of language to open new worlds. Poetry and myth are not just nostalgia for some forgotten world. They constitute a disclosure of unprecedented worlds, an opening on to other possible worlds which transcend the established limits of our actual world. (A Ricoeur Reader: 489–90)

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