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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
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Amardeep Singh
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Critical Code Studies, Conway’s Law

Posted by Bill Benzon on 01/02/08 at 04:12 PM

I’ve received an email informing me of the emergence of a new blog devoted to Critical Code Studies:

Announcing the launch of a new collaborative blog titled Critical Code Studies . The blog is dedicated to exploring interpretations of computer code within cultural contexts. Rather than focusing primarily on making code function or even the pursuit of “beautiful” code, critical code studies brings in critical theory to examine the ways in which the lines of code reflect, shape, and reproduce our culture including aspects of class, gender, race, sexuality. These criticisms include both the context for the code’s creation and the ways in which it circulates in culture. Rather than one specific lens, CCS names a growing collection of methodologies for making/finding meaning in code.

I sent the email to some friends in the software business and one of them, Richard Fritzson, pointed me to the Wikipedia entry on Conway’s Law:

Conway’s Law is an adage named after computer programmer Melvin Conway, who introduced the idea in 1968. It concerns the structure of organizations and the corresponding structure of systems (particularly computer software) designed by those organizations. In various versions, Conway’s Law states:

* Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.

* If you have four groups working on a compiler, you’ll get a 4-pass compiler.

Or more concisely:

* Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.

While I tend to be skeptical of any enterprise whose name takes the form “Critical X Studies,” where X is the domain under investigation, there’s certainly room to look at the cultural production of computer code and the styles of computer languages and programs. 


On Protocols, in honor of the TCP/IP silver anniversary.

By nnyhav on 01/03/08 at 11:49 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Conway’s Law sounds a bit like the “Utopia as Leviathan” theory: Any ideal society is a self-portrait of the idealizer.

By Ray Davis on 01/03/08 at 05:17 PM | Permanent link to this comment

There was a session on this at last year’s (2006, Philadelphia) MLA.  One doesn’t just look at the executable code.  The comments, structure, history, programmer (and what the programmer has also done), even the funding source are subjects for analysis.  There’s also a tendency to broaden the scope:  one of the panelists pointed out that the I Ching is an executable text.

By jim on 01/05/08 at 05:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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