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

Federica Frabetti
<span title="">2009</span>
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
more &raquo; ... he 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 t [...]
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