After little more than half a century since its initial development, computer code is extensively and intimately woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. From the digital alarm clock that wakes us to the air traffic control system that guides our plane in for a landing, software is shaping our world: it creates new ways of undertaking tasks, speeds up and automates existing practices, transforms social and economic relations, and offers new forms of cultural activity, personal empowerment, and modes of play.
In Scripting Reading Motions, Manuel Portela explores the expressive use of book forms and programmable media in experimental works of both print and electronic literature and finds a self-conscious play with the dynamics of reading and writing. Portela examines a series of print and digital works by Johanna Drucker, Mark Z. Danielewski, Rui Torres, Jim Andrews, and others, for the insights they yield about the semiotic and interpretive actions through which readers produce meaning when interacting with codes.
Beginning in the late eighteenth century, huge circular panoramas presented their audiences with resplendent representations that ranged from historic battles to exotic locations. Such panoramas were immersive but static. There were other panoramas that moved--hundreds, and probably thousands of them. Their history has been largely forgotten. In Illusions in Motion, Erkki Huhtamo excavates this neglected early manifestation of media culture in the making.
New media thrives on cycles of obsolescence and renewal: from celebrations of cyber-everything to Y2K, from the dot-com bust to the next big things—mobile mobs, Web 3.0, cloud computing. In Programmed Visions, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argues that these cycles result in part from the ways in which new media encapsulates a logic of programmability. New media proliferates “programmed visions,” which seek to shape and predict—even embody—a future based on past data.
Speaking Code begins by invoking the “Hello World” convention used by programmers when learning a new language, helping to establish the interplay of text and code that runs through the book. Interweaving the voice of critical writing from the humanities with the tradition of computing and software development, in Speaking Code Geoff Cox formulates an argument that aims to undermine the distinctions between criticism and practice and to emphasize the aesthetic and political implications of software studies.
Evil Media develops a philosophy of media power that extends the concept of media beyond its tried and trusted use in the games of meaning, symbolism, and truth. It addresses the gray zones in which media exist as corporate work systems, algorithms and data structures, twenty-first century self-improvement manuals, and pharmaceutical techniques. Evil Media invites the reader to explore and understand the abstract infrastructure of the present day.
In today’s complex digital world, we must understand new media expressions and digital experiences not simply as more technologically advanced forms of “writing” that can be understood and analyzed as “texts” but as artifacts in their own right that require a unique skill set. Just as agents seeking to express themselves in alphabetic writing need to be literate, “egents” who seek to express themselves in digital media need to be--to use a term coined by cybertheorist Gregory Ulmer--electrate. In Inter/vention, Jan Holmevik helps to invent electracy.
What matters in understanding digital media? Is looking at the external appearance and audience experience of software enough--or should we look further? In Expressive Processing, Noah Wardrip-Fruin argues that understanding what goes on beneath the surface, the computational processes that make digital media function, is essential.
In Mechanisms, Matthew Kirschenbaum examines new media and electronic writing against the textual and technological primitives that govern writing, inscription, and textual transmission in all media: erasure, variability, repeatability, and survivability. Mechanisms is the first book in its field to devote significant attention to storage--the hard drive in particular--arguing that understanding the affordances of storage devices is essential to understanding new media.
Games and other playable forms, from interactive fictions to improvisational theater, involve role playing and story—something played and something told. In Second Person, game designers, authors, artists, and scholars examine the different ways in which these two elements work together in tabletop role-playing games (RPGs), computer games, board games, card games, electronic literature, political simulations, locative media, massively multiplayer games, and other forms that invite and structure play.