John Cayley {biografie} {fullpaper}

The Code is Not the Text
(unless it is the text)

The use of networked and programmable equipment as both delivery and compositional media for literal and verbal art (and also in other forms of so-called new media art) has provoked critical engagements which pretend to reveal and exam the various levels of code and/or encoding which are a function of programmatological systems. The title of this section of the p0es1s programme is a case in point. In extreme forms of such engagement, a radical post-human reductionism may be proposed, such as that, for example, which can be read from certain of Friedrich Kittler's essays, in which the ramifications of so-called human culture, especially as played out on new media, become indistinguishable from "signifiers of voltage difference," demonstrably the final, lowest-level 'ground code' of a cultural production which uses programmable tools, and perhaps also essential to the brain activity which generates the object of psychoanalysis. But there are less challenging and far less productive confusions which arise from this engagement, and the purpose of this very brief paper is to address a number of these, siting a few example of artistic practice and a couple of critical sources. While allowing the value of certain metacritical statements such as Kittler's (which take on questions of what culture is), the aim of the paper is to disallow a wilful critical confusion of code and text, to make it harder for critics to avoid addressing one or the other by pretending that they are somehow equivalent, or that they are themselves ambiguously addressed to readers and/or processors.