Words Made Flesh: Code, Culture, Imagination
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Words Made Flesh: Code, Culture, Imagination

By Florian Cramer
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Book Description

Executable code existed centuries before the invention of the computer in magic, Kabbalah, musical composition and experimental poetry. These practices are often neglected as a historical pretext of contemporary software culture and electronic arts. Above all, they link computations to a vast speculative imagination that encompasses art, language, technology, philosophy and religion. These speculations in turn inscribe themselves into the technology. Since even the most simple formalism requires symbols with which it can be expressed, and symbols have cultural connotations, any code is loaded with meaning. This booklet writes a small cultural history of imaginative computation, reconstructing both the obsessive persistence and contradictory mutations of the phantasm that symbols turn physical, and words are made flesh.

Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1. Introduction: In Dark Territory
  • Chapter 2. Computations of Totality
    • Exe.cut[up]able statements
    • Magic and religion
    • Pythagorean harmony as a cosmological code
    • Kabbalah
    • Ramon Llull and Lullism
    • Rhetoric and poetics
    • Combinatory poetry and the occult
    • Computation as a figure of thought
  • Chapter 3. Computation as Fragmentation
    • Gulliver's Travels
    • The Library of Babel
    • Romanticist combinatorics
    • Concrete poetry
    • Max Bense and ``information aesthetics''
    • Situationism, Surrealism and psychogeography
    • Markov chains
    • Tristan Tzara and cut-ups
    • John Cage's indeterminism
    • Italo Calvino and machine-generated literature
    • Software as industrialization of art
    • Authorship and subjectivity
    • Pataphysics and Oulipo
    • Abraham M. Moles' computational aesthetics
    • Source code poetry
    • Jodi
    • 1337 speech
    • Codework
  • Chapter 4. Automatisms and Their Constraints
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Athanasius Kircher's box
    • John Searle's Chinese Room
    • Georges Perec's Maschine
    • Enzensberger's and Schmatz's / Czernin's poetic machines
    • Software dystopia: Jodi
    • Software dystopia: Netochka Nezvanova
    • From dystopia to new subjectivity
  • Chapter 5. What Is Software?
    • A cultural definition
    • Software as practice
    • Software versus hardware
    • Conclusion
  • References
  • List of Figures
  • Index
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