Technology Made Legible: A Cultural Study of Software as a Form of Writing in the Theories and Practices of Software Engineering

Frabetti, Federica. 2009. Technology Made Legible: A Cultural Study of Software as a Form of Writing in the Theories and Practices of Software Engineering. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My dissertation proposes an analytical framework for the cultural understanding of the group of technologies commonly referred to as 'new' or 'digital'. I aim at dispelling what the philosopher Bernard Stiegler calls the 'deep opacity' that still surrounds new technologies, and that constitutes one of the main obstacles in their conceptualization today. I argue that such a critical intervention is essential if we are to take new technologies seriously, and if we are to engage with them on both the cultural and the political level.

I understand new technologies as technologies based on software. I therefore suggest that a complex understanding of technologies, and of their role in contemporary culture and society, requires, as a preliminary step, an investigation of how software works. This involves going beyond studying the intertwined processes of its production, reception and consumption - processes that typically constitute the focus of media and cultural studies. Instead, I propose a way of accessing the ever present but allegedly invisible codes and languages that constitute software. I thus reformulate the problem of understanding software-based technologies as a problem of making software legible.

I build my analysis on the concept of software advanced by Software Engineering, a technical discipline born in the late 1960s that defines software development as an advanced writing technique and software as a text. This conception of software enables me to analyse it through a number of reading strategies. I draw on the philosophical framework of deconstruction as formulated by Jacques Derrida in order to identify the conceptual structures underlying software and hence 'demystify' the opacity of new technologies.

Ultimately, I argue that a deconstructive reading of software enables us to recognize the constitutive, if unacknowledged, role of technology in the formation of both the human and academic knowledge. This reading leads to a self-reflexive interrogation of the media and cultural studies' approach to technology and enhances our capacity to engage with new technologies without separating our cultural understanding from our political practices.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00028917

Keywords:

software, technologies, culture, society, knowledge, Software Engineering

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies

Date:

2009

Item ID:

28917

Date Deposited:

30 Jun 2020 14:43

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2020 14:43

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/28917

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