The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 23, 2003

Codeworld                                            */alansondheim/*

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Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.
The world is everything that is the case.
The world is all that is the case.
Die Welt ist die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen, nicht der Dinge.
The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
Die Tatsachen im logischen Raum sind die Welt.
Die Welt zerfallt in Tatsachen.
The facts in logical space are the world.
The world divides into facts.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
(From beginning and end of Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,
Ogden translation 1922, Pears/McGuinness translation 1961.)

TLP describes a Dostoevskian crystalline world divisible into facts. The
German is clear; the motto to the book, by Kurnberger states, in trans-
lation: ...and whatever a man knows, whatever is not mere rumbling, and
roaring that he has heard, can be said in three words.

TLP portends ideality. The world is logical, mathematical, capable of
clear division. Logical space is the space, I would assume, of the natural
numbers, if not the integers; as Russell says in his introduction, TLP
presents, inscribes, a finite mathematics - there's no room for the
continuum, and proof of the continuum hypothesis was far in the future.

The translations are different, almost never radically so, but different
nonetheless. There is a residue in German such that both English versions
converge, but often never meet. The sememes are equivalent, but only to a
degree; translations are almost never one-to-one.

In this logical space of facts, programming, and protocols, there is
always a wavering, always room, always doubt, critique, and I would say
desire as well. Never mind that this wor(l)d breaks down, evidenced a few
decades later by Godel, Tarski, Skolem, etc.: Coherency, living within the
safety-net of mathesis, matrix, maternality, remains a dream of humanity.
DNA coding, cryptography, hacking the world - all appear to guarantee that
everything is possible.

Computer languages are logical; computers are presumed so, but aren't;
protocols are logical as well; logical spaces may be compared to
drive-space; garbage-in, garbage-out; and so forth. Hacking depends on a
closed world with closed loopholes; the loopholes themselves are coherent,
logical, _there._

Codework, code writing, rides within and throughout the logical world, as
a disturbance, a sign of things to come, both extension and breakdown.

Where does the content lie? Is it in the translation of code into
messiness or residue? Is it in the interpretation of residue? Or perhaps,
and herewith a criticism, is it in the wonderment, confusion, and novelty
of the residue itself?

Is codework a minor art, minor literature? What is the point of repeatedly
shaking the scaffolding - if not the emergence, in the future, of an other
or another approach, or an other, being or organism, for which codework
now both provides augury and its weakness as portal/welcoming? For what is
come among us already no longer speaks the world of logical facts, just as
computers are no longer large-scale calculators, but something else as
well, something unnamed, fearful - that fearfulness already documented by,
say, Cruikshank in the 19th century.

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Codework references the alterity of a substrate which supports, generates,
and behaves as a catalyst in relation to its production. To this extent,
codework is self-referential, but no text is completely self-referential
(sr); things waver. So for example 'ten letters' and 'two words' and
'english' may be considered sr - but only to the extent that the phrases
are presumed to apply to themselves. Extended: 'This sentence has
thirty-one letters.' - 'This sentence has five words.' - 'This is an
english sen- tence.'

What is the residue? What are the sentences 'about'? On the surface,
letters, words, language. This is an additional or diacritical relation-
ship to sr; if one, for example, didn't know english, none of these would
make sense.

All sr possesses a residue - an _attribute tag._ In codework, which has a
component of sr, the tag may be plural, muddied - the world is never
presumed complete, total. Codework is not an instance in this regard of
mathematical platonism or Godelian-platonism; if anything it relies on the
breakdown of the ideal, pointing out the meaning-component of computation,
program, protocol, even the strictest formalisms.

Early on Whitehead pointed out that 2+2 = 4, but only in a certain formal
sense; in fact, the equation implies an operation or unifying process;
within the 4, the components are combined, their history lost. Strictly,
'2+2' and '4' are equivalent; within the symbolic, they differ - for that
matter, in terms of thermodynamics as well. This domain is expanded by
codework, which endlessly interferes.

The danger of codework is in its delimitation; it tends to repeat; the
works tend towards considerable length; automatic generation can flow
forever. Sometimes it appears as maw-machine emissions - text in, modified
text/partial code out. Sometimes it extends language into new uncharted
territories. Sometimes it references the labor and/or processing of
language. Sometimes it privileges the written over the spoken, or portends
the spoken within a convolution of stuttering and close-to-impossible
phonemic combinations. Sometimes it appears as a warning against the all-
too-easy assimilation of linguistic competency.

Sometimes it breaks free, relates to the subjectivity behind its produc-
tion, the subjectivity inherent in every presentation of symbol-symbolic.

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... 'lying together, look over your lover, it's the face of the other,
it's the face of an other' ...

Let us take for granted that online and online(offline) sex (as a result
of online sex) are prevalent and transforming, for those who can afford
the proper connections, bandwidth, and time. Let us take for granted as
well that these sexualities occur within a stadium of exhibitionisms,
voyeurisms, seductions, of, and in relation to, others - that there is
almost always a shuddering or splitting of bodies, a shattering of bodies
dividing as a result of intrusions of mass-communications and machine-
mediated perception into what used to be private domains.

Let us further look at the history of personal historical knowledge, the
history of private or personal lives, including ancestors, antecedents,
descendents, traditions of naming, and the naming of others. We might note
that in online or online(offline) sexuality, there is the _absent or
disconnected_ population, the disenfranchised population, the refugee or
hungered populations, the violated populations, who are neither conscious
or operative as such - the miseries of underdevelopment playing a large
role in this. Let us note our own role in these populations, our own
belonging, our own violence as another arm of voluptuousness.

History resides, if anywhere, within the disconnected population; it is
within connectivity and the continuous production of history, that history
itself disconnects. There is reality without reality tv; there is tv with
reality tv. Countries bomb countries they cannot place on a map; no two
people ever speak the same language in the coupling of bodies.

Everything I am saying is a myth, lie, only to point out that online,
online(offline) sexualities don't occur in a vacuum; they're against the
background of others, of the erasure of history and the weakening of
political posturing, of the almost continuous splitting of bodies,
of the introjection and projection - 'jectivity' of others to the extent
that identities are problematic, exchanged/renamed/stolen/intensified -
that the politics in all of this are lost in orgasm, that there's no
turning back, that we're all heading towards fucking armageddon -


It's Worldsex: Do you recognize your own prosthesis? The turmoil of bodies
tends towards no bodies at all; the computer screen is already sexualized
as you can hardly keep your hands on the keys. Eyes float in relation to
proferred images. Perhaps this is already a form of war.


Falling in Love Online (part of an article published in Tamil, 1999)

Here you are, happily married, with two children. Your husband has a great
job and you're a little bit bored and so you join some Internet communi-
ties, just to relax. You find yourself chatting away about some recent
novels you've read, and you complain that your husband really doesn't have
much time to read, and isn't all that interested anyway.

Before long, someone starts talking to you; Sagdish tells you that he,
too, reads a lot of novels, but he lives alone and has no one talk to, and
he likes poetry as well. You begin chatting with him more than with anyone
else - before this, you had flitted from conversation to conversation, but
now you find yourself drawn in.

You log in late at night, and every time you do this, your heart skips a
beat, hoping Sagdish will be there, and he usually is. You start talking a
bit more intimately with him - about the fact that you can't really relate
to your husband's business, and you feel lonely every so often, and he
says that he feels lonely too.

One night your husband comes in and finds you typing away at the computer
and he asks, what are you doing? You answer, nothing, just talking to some
people, and for the first time you find yourself hiding something from
your husband - that something is Sagdish. You realize you've crossed a
line somewhere, but you don't feel it's all that serious - after all, it's
only the Internet, and there's nothing to lose or gain - it's just a game,
and Sagdish helps take your loneliness away.

You decide to be more careful when your husband's around - you don't
really want him to question you any more about this. And you look more and
more towards those chats with Sagdish, who is becoming part of your life.
You find yourself exchanging email with him, and you wait nervously every
day for his email and the chats. You begin dreaming about him.

One day he asks what you look like, and you describe yourself, but you
don't have a picture online. He persists, and you say you'll send him one,
an extra one that you just happen to have. You mail it to him when your
husband's not around, and Sagdish puts his picture on the Net, and you go
and look at him, and your dreams begin taking more and more shape.

You find yourself telling Sagdish everything, things you have never told
your husband - things you could never tell him. You find yourself doing
this quickly; all this activity has lasted only a month, and even though
you're usually shy, you're quite aggressive with him. You confess that sex
with your husband hasn't been all that good, and Sagdish asks you the

Somewhere around this time, another line is crossed; you begin writing
sexually to each more, more explicitly than you ever thought possible. You
become more and more nervous around your husband and children, who guess
that something is wrong, and don't know what to do about it. You insist to
yourself that everything is a game, but you won't talk about it to your
family, and you begin to feel isolated in the house.

Your husband confronts you angrily, and demands that you tell him what is
going on. You mention only that you have this friend Sagdish, who helps
take away your loneliness when your husband is at work, and your husband
demands that you stop writing and talking with him online. At first you go
along with this, and don't contact Sagdish for a couple of days. And then
you go back, as usual, almost as if you're addicted to a drug.

Your husband gets angrier and angrier with you, and you don't know what to
do. You write about all of this with Sagdish, who begs to telephone you
and talk about it directly.

One day, Sagdish calls, and you find yourself in love with his voice, and
you talk for over an hour. He calls any number of times after this, always
when your husband is out and another line is crossed. You believe that
Sagdish is the only person who understands you, even though you have never
met him in person. Sagdish fills your dreams and your life.

One day your husband walks in during the day, and you are on the phone.
There is a huge fight, and he walks out, and moves to an apartment in the
vicinity. You are alone with the children, and a few days later, you meet
Sagdish for the first time, in real life.


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