The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Filter and being (notes for NSF workshop on codework - comments greatly

I want to generalize writing and coding as _inscription,_ and emphasize that
the world as we know it is already inscribed, encoded and decoded. The
lifeworld isn't analogic and / or mute; it's discrete and presencing.

One way of thinking about this is in terms of _filtering._ The usual model
of information - transmitter/(channel|noise)/receiver (and so forth) -
implies that there is a form of coherency and, if not comprehension, at
least 'mutual orientation of cognitive domains,' between sender and
receiver. I'd argue that this orientation occurs through filtering which is
always present, fuzzy, and possessing a political economy of its own.

Filtering isn't active or passive, inscribed or inscribing, and informa-
tion itself is non-existent, nothing, a form of particulate matter with an
ontology derived from organisms and apparatus.

Once we start (or end) here, writing splits; on one hand it becomes
_wryting_ - a state of material transformation, transmission, and reception;
and on the other, it becomes malleable, a spew interpreted as symbols. Here
is the moment of creative freedom which also splits - on one hand into or
through unbounded, rule-less 'creative' writing, drawn from an organism's
interior - and on the other, a fuzzy collocation of coding,
languages, kludges, protocols, drawn equally from interior impulse and
external restraints (economic, etc.) or goals that may be transformed in the
process of inscription.

To misquote David Finkelstein, one might consider programming as fucking
with/in a universe of abstracted ontologies, and creative writing as
masturbation-fantasy, moving just about anywhere, anywhen. Both, however,
have inscription and filtering in common and neither presents or is pure
'presence' within the world. On the other hands, both meander among rules,
although with differring obeisance, and both have, at their core, a freedom
that is as absolute as anything gets.

How can this be useful pedagogically? In terms of creative writing, the
answer is, I believe, to think of texts as both intentional, cohering, and
as material objects which are always already filtered; this leads to
thinking about filtering and different forms of filtering as creative
writing practice. In terms of programming, not being a programmer (but
working with programmers), I'm not sure; I'd argue that, for an outsider,
filtering appears at the interstices or liminal spaces between program and
framework (inputs, outputs, interfaces, hardware (in the traditional sense,
and in the sense of information-laden substance), and so forth). And I'd
want to look at the phenomenological horizons of programming, not only
through this filtering, but also within programs and programming in general:
Where is the programmer in the midst of her subroutine? And where is the
freedom then/there?

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