The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

August 1, 2007

_NOTES AND DIALOG ON CODE_ (7/31/07) (Sandy Baldwin and Alan Sondheim)

NOTES ON CODE (Alan Sondheim)

Major modality:
Relationship between modeling and codework:
mapping within the subtext/substructure of the metric.
Visual modeling: Visual as thetic  - modality of happenstance (i.e.
modeling becomes dependent on the physiology of visual bandwidth).
Aural modeling: Visual with similar field, different spatial modality.

How is the thetic (is that the correct word?) in relation to ideality?
Does political economy depend on visual/aural physiology?

Scanning as doubled text: coded software / parameterization of the real
tending towards results which are residue (separate the results from the
structure). But within the phenomenology of the real, the results and
structure are inextricably tangled.

Motion capture (mocap) - see scanning. In scanning, the static object is
standard; in motion capture, the dynamic object. Think perhaps of the
latter in terms of a second-order differential - doubled modeling of
changes (1. through mocap; 2. through 'accelerated modeling').

The results: the 'code carapace' or chiten - Barrier/revelation code.
(Older work: The relation of consciousness to structured systems: what are
the manifestations of those systems?) Code as armor.

Seeing and hearing seem 'tawdry,' unable to sustain the abstracted or
philosophical weight placed upon them. To see or hear text philosophically
churns on transparency; everything else stumbles. We turn to writing
because it gets away from us to the extent that it's also reflective of
deep abstraction, alien-code (all code is alien).

All code is alien because it calls from elsewhere - or rather, doesn't
call at all; it's as if someone created it, it's as if it wasn't created,
not a bit of it. Which is the fundamental phenomenological status of code:
some of it is created, but some of it isn't.


Sandy Baldwin:

Thanks for these notes - always helpful. It would be interesting to
present them somehow with the video. I'm trying to think about your
question about the relation of the thetic to ideality. Now, the former
references taking a position (thesis) and signification (cf Kristeva); the
latter references Husserlian phenomenology and the constitutions of
objects. Are the second set of distinctions (political economy - visual /
aural physiology) parallel to the first two? Anyway, I wonder if you would
venture an answer to the question?

Alan Sondheim:

I'm not sure I understand all the modalities or connotations of the
thetic; online we have (among other things): 2.  Presented dogmatically;
arbitrarily prescribed. and derived: Greek thetikos, from thetos, placed,
from tithenai, to put; see dh- in Indo-European roots

So I was thinking of the thetic as arbitrary proffering, gesturing; if
code might be construed from ideality, the thetic might be construed from

The visual/aural/sensory modalities seem clearly arbitrary in the larger
scheme of things, if such exists; the electrical senses of fish obviously
map the world completely differently (not to mention magnetism in birds,
bees sensing of solar polarization etc.). So this is the thetic, the shown
and it's in relation to political economy, which is dependent on culture
and organism. The ideality - and this for me is where a kind of
neo-platonism comes into play - is a structure which underlies everything
- a structure which _might_ map through propositional logic or Wolfram's
cellular automata or etc.

The structure is alien to the extent that a rock is in-itself, ding an
such. It's possibly here that the uncanny of codework appears (and coding
in general, mathematics/mathesis in general) - that code, no matter how
written, always seems, in part, to come from somewhere else, to appear, to
have appearance, whatever the sensory modality.


Thanks for the elaboration of the thetic. Some thoughts: As to the
visual/aural modalities (you mention fish, for example), I wonder if
inter-species animal display such as "stotting" (sp?) or "organs to be
seen" and the like, apply here. Here the code of display, in the large
sense of code from Eco or elsewhere, implies a semiotics that can't simply
be understood in terms of a return to the individual or even the species,
that gestures towards a general not-political economy. I'm thinking that
we, insofar as we are just such animals in the world, are on display for
the other (substitutable in the sense Levinas talks of).


Had to look up stotting! The sp. is right. But I'm not sure that it
doesn't imply a 'return to the individual' insofar as the communication is
a signal? This isn't the 'mutual orienting of cognitive domains' - it's
masquerade or camouflage in a sense? But the display has to be readable by
the other, in both cases, stotting or display for the other, and the
modalities are always limited; in fact, with stotting, the limitation is
absolutely necessary - for a signal to be a signal.


I take this substitutability I refer to above as the alien you refer to *
the alien that I am. The thetic (as arbitary positing and also as a
"thing" in the scopic field) is always ideological. I think this is where
I'm coming to your point about ideality, and when you mentioned
neo-platonic I thought of Barthes' on the photograph as a kind of
"emission" (in the sense of


Yes, I think we're in agreement here perhaps. The alien is the source
structuration of code; the propositional calculus can't be consumed...


Agreed. Obviously, I'm thinking, on the one hand, of Bataille or Lingis
and their insistence and foregrounding of economies of excess and
non-return; but then, thought is made to account for and come back to
itself. Now, this dialectical reason is inseparable from philosophy, yet
we know there are other philosophies and unreasonable ways of thinking. I
could see this as life within and against the human.


Interesting... I agree with you but then there's the 'selfish gene' issue
- if the stotting is common and in various species, then it's not leaky at
all but highly efficient; certainly it would be evolutionarily (?)
determined more than other signals, since it's at the fulcrum of life and


Here's a different but not unrelated question - returning to the alien as
"source structuration of code." I wonder about the following: it seems to
me the subject relation to the symbolic online, let's say to the ideality
of ascii, is like that of the subject of film. There's is something like
suture occuring, and so on; at the same time, there's a difference and
even a complete reversal. I think this has to do with time, but I'm not
sure? Any thoughts here - again, if it's too much, there's no need.


I'm lucky to be online. A HUGE storm is coming, lightning etc. out here.
Anyway - the subject online is an actant of course; the suture is similar
but different in that the filmic subject is predetermined - and therein
lies it's power - I think it relates to a fundamental masochism. The
viewer is held in thrall by the film, and/or the actions of the viewer
change nothing about the film itself - which continues to unravel at its
own pace - but only about the diegesis, which is always in dialog. The
subject in relation to the online symbolic, I assume you're referencing
jectivity (projecting, introjecting) is in a sense too much in control, as
if that control were offered to us elsewhere, outside online being as
well. In that sense, time is 'supple' for the online subject - in film,
it's not linear, but shuttled, and that dialog is set into motion by the
obdurate quality of the film, which just unravels. Of course this obdurate
quality relates, I think, to the inert of the real as well. Then when one
brings dream, dream-screen, all these other aspects into it, the whole
situation becomes muddled? Perhaps hopelessly so?


Thanks, yes. I think in the suppleness of the online subject: ASCII gives
me life, I give ASCII life, but I also ask more of ASCII than it can give,
and it gives more than I can ASCII. (In the otherness of it.) Also,
interesting that there's no "apparatus theory" of the net, beyond your
internet text of course (which does explain all).

The World in Two Jokes

How many Passenger Pigeons does it take to change a light bulb?

How many Tibetan Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?

b.c. a.d.

Analogical, used by way of analogy
Analogically, in an analogical manner
Analogicalness, the quality of being analogical
Analogize, to explain by way of analogy
Analogous, having analogy
Analogy, resemblance between things

Digit, three fourths of an inch, the twelfth part of the diameter
of the sun or moon; an number expressed by a single figure
Digitated, branched out into divisions like fingers

Electre, a mixed metal
Electrical, Electrick, attractive without magnetism
Electricity, a property in bodies, wherebye, when rubbed, they
draw substances, and emit fire

(Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, 1823)

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