Announcing the publication of Critical Code Studies Book

The HaCCS Lab is excited to announce the publication of the Critical Code Studies book from MIT Press.  Although not the first book to feature Critical Code Studies, the book represents the culmination of 15 years of work on Critical Code Studies and will hopefully open up the methods to many more scholars.

To accompany book, we are relaunching the Critical Code Studies website with resources, code from the book, and tools.

From the book jacket

An argument that we must read code for more than what it does—we must consider what it means.

Critical Code Studies book

Critical Code Studies from MIT Press

Computer source code has become part of popular discourse. Code is read not only by programmers but by lawyers, artists, pundits, reporters, political activists, and literary scholars; it is used in political debate, works of art, popular entertainment, and historical accounts. In this book, Mark Marino argues that code means more than merely what it does; we must also consider what it means. We need to learn to read code critically. Marino presents a series of case studies—ranging from the Climategate scandal to a hactivist art project on the US-Mexico border—as lessons in critical code reading.

Marino shows how, in the process of its circulation, the meaning of code changes beyond its functional role to include connotations and implications, opening it up to interpretation and inference—and misinterpretation and reappropriation. The Climategate controversy, for example, stemmed from a misreading of a bit of placeholder code as a “smoking gun” that supposedly proved fabrication of climate data. A poetry generator created by Nick Montfort was remixed and reimagined by other poets, and subject to literary interpretation.

Each case study begins by presenting a small and self-contained passage of code—by coders as disparate as programming pioneer Grace Hopper and philosopher Friedrich Kittler—and an accessible explanation of its context and functioning. Marino then explores its extra-functional significance, demonstrating a variety of interpretive approaches.

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CFP: Critical Code Studies Working Group 2020

Critical Code Studies Working Group 2020

Update: Extended Deadline!
Jan 20-Feb 10, 2020
Apply by Jan 10

Jan 20 Week 1: Introduction to Critical Code Studies: Mark Marino and Jeremy Douglass
Jan 27 Week 2: Indigenous Programming: Jon Corbett, Outi Laiti, Jason Edward Lewis, and Daniel Temkin
Feb 3 Week 3: Feminist AI: Christine Meinders, Sarah Ciston, Catherine Griffiths

You are invited to participate in the 2020 Critical Code Studies Working Group, Jan 20-Feb 10, 2020 online.  In our 10 year anniversary working group, we will be turning our attention to indigenous programming and feminist AI.  We will also be celebrating the publication of the Critical Code Studies book from MIT Press.

If you would like to join us, please just fill out this form.

The biennial Critical Code Studies Working Group is a multi-week intensive online discussion forum designed to develop the methods and approaches of CCS.   These working groups are the principal laboratories for these approaches.

In addition to weekly plenary sessions, the working group invites participants to post snippets of code for the group to analyze.

Topics this year include Feminist AI and Indigenous Programming.  Thread leaders include: Christine Meinders (of Feminist AI), Sarah Ciston, Catherine Griffiths, Jon Corbett, Outi Laiti, Jason Edward Lewis, and Daniel Temkin.  The Working Group will be coordinated by Mark Marino, Jeremy Douglass, and Zachary Mann.

The Critical Code Studies Working Group is sponsored by The Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (HaCCS Lab) of USC and the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons (DAHC) of UC Santa Barbara.

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Book Celebration: Feminist in a Software Lab by Tara McPerson (2/19)

Poster for talk

The USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study & The Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab present

Tara McPherson
Feminist in a Software Lab:
Difference + Design
Book Celebration

Feb 19, 12-2pm Doheny 241

Tara McPherson is Chair and Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and Director of the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Studies.  She is a core faculty member of the IMAP program, USC’s innovative practice based-Ph.D., and also an affiliated faculty member in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department.  Her research engages the cultural dimensions of media, including the intersection of gender, race, affect and place.  She has a particular interest in digital media.  Here, her research focuses on the digital humanities, early software histories, gender, and race, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship.

Her most recent book, Feminist in a Software Lab, was published by Harvard University Press in 2018 and recently received the Garfinkel Prize in Digital Humanities from the ASA.  Her Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003) received the 2004 John G. Cawelti Award for the outstanding book published on American Culture, among other awards.  She is co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003) and Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities  (California UP: 2014) and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected, part of the MacArthur Foundation series on Digital Media and Learning (MIT Press, 2008.)   Her writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Camera Obscura, American Literature, The Velvet Light Trap, Discourse, and Screen, and in edited anthologies such as Race and Cyberspace, The New Media Book, The Object Reader, Virtual Publics, The Visual Culture Reader 2.0, and Race After the Internet.

She was the Founding Editor of Vectors, a multimedia peer-reviewed journal affiliated with the Open Humanities Press, and was a founding editor of the MacArthur-supported International Journal of Learning and Media (MIT Press.)  She is a widely sought-out speaker on the digital humanities, digital scholarship, youth and media, and gender and technology studies.  Tara was among the founding organizers of Race in Digital Space, a multi-year project supported by the Annenberg, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations.  She was on the advisory board of the Mellon-funded Scholarly Communications Institute, has frequently served as an AFI and Peabody juror, is a founding board member of HASTAC , and is on the boards of several journals and other organizations. With major support from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she is currently working with colleagues from other leading universities and with several academic presses, museums, scholarly societies, and archives to explore new modes of digital scholarship and pedagogy.   She is the lead PI on the multimedia authoring platform, Scalar, and for the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture,

Feminist in a Software Lab

For over a dozen years, the Vectors Lab has experimented with digital scholarship through its online publication, Vectors, and through Scalar, a multimedia authoring platform. The history of this software lab intersects a much longer tale about computation in the humanities, as well as tensions about the role of theory in related projects.

Tara McPherson considers debates around the role of cultural theory within the digital humanities and addresses Gary Hall’s claim that the goals of critical theory and of quantitative or computational analysis may be irreconcilable (or at the very least require “far more time and care”). She then asks what it might mean to design—from conception—digital tools and applications that emerge from contextual concerns of cultural theory and, in particular, from a feminist concern for difference. This path leads back to the Vectors Lab and its ongoing efforts at the intersection of theory and praxis.

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First USC Seminar to use Critical Code Studies


This semester, for the first time, USC has offered GSEM-110G Seminar in the Arts (Digital Literature), an introductory course for first-year students teaching them foundations in Critical Code Studies in the service of analyzing electronic literature.

The course, taught by HaCCS Lab Director Mark Marino, presents students with an overview of genres and the field of e-lit along with methods for analyzing it.  In addition to presenting traditional means of literary analysis, the course demonstrates some of the basic techniques of Critical Code Studies and highlights ways to use them when analyzing a digital literary text.

The course had no prerequisites in programming, so it includes explanations of code in a variety of objects.  In the course, students also use code to make poetry generators, interactive fiction, and other forms of electronic literature.

The HaCCS Lab is developing future courses and units for course in CCS.

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Jesse Vigil visits the E-Lit Reading Group

E-Lit Monthly Reading Group
Tuesday, 2pm, Dec. 4th, English Dept. Conference Room

Jesse Vigil

Jesse Vigil and the Klaxo box

On Tuesday, we received a visit from artist Jesse Vigil who offered us a demo of the Klaxo Radio Hour, his “audio escape room,” recently featured at Indiecade 2018 as one of the nominees.  Jesse co-created the game with Martzi Campos.  Both teach at USC in the Interactive division.

After the demo, Jesse gave us some insights into how they created the piece, a sense of the aesthetic influences, and some hints as to where they were headed next!

Here’s his bio:

Jesse Vigil is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, game designer, and serial entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of DTLA creative studio Psychic Bunny, and the former CEO of the pioneering indie game publisher Codename:Games. His work has appeared in print, in major online publications, at festivals around the country, in theaters, on consoles, and even once in a Las Vegas Casino. Jesse‘s work in interactive fiction includes early work in spherical storytelling, the Webby award-winning Re:Active comics manifesto, the pioneering audio adventure game FREEQ, and the tabletop RPG/radio drama hybrid Champions of the Earth. His recent work includes immersive theater/Augemented Reality hybrid games, the award-winning Alternate Reality Game “Reality Ends Here” and the 2018 IndieCade nominee The Klaxo Radio Hour.

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CFP: CCSWG18 (Jan 15-Feb 5, 2018; Jan 7)

Critical Code Studies Working Group 2018
Jan 15-Feb 5, 2018
Application Deadline EXTENDED (Jan 7)

Announcing the 5th biennial Critical Code Studies Working Group , Jan 15-Feb 5, 2018 online. CCSWG is the major online think tank for Critical Code Studies, a hub of dialogue and collaborative inquiry that generates major thrust in the reading of code. The threads from previous CCSWGs were published in electronic book review, and this year we are opening the forum itself to all, though only participants can post. Past discussions have led to books (10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10), essays, and conference panels. Join us for explorations for the intersections of computer source code and the humanities.

This year’s major topics include: creative and critical coding; identity in code; gender and feminism, race and ethnicity (specifically Black Code Studies), and sexuality in coding cultures.

Guest weekly leaders include: John Bell, Evan Buswell, Jessica Johnson, Elizabeth Losh, Judy Malloy, Mark Anthony Neal, Safiya Noble, Margaret Rhee, and Jacque Wernimont.

To apply to join the working group, please fill out an application by Jan 7

The application period has ended.

You will need to include:

  • Name
  • Institutional Affiliation (if any)
  • One-sentence bio
  • Past work or study in code or Critical Code Studies
  • (Recommended) Proposed Code Critique thread or related discussion

A “code critique” is a segment of code (or entire program) you wish to offer for discussion by the working group. You can see examples of code critiques in these HASTAC threads.

Notice of acceptance will be given by Jan. 8.  Participants may be asked to be designated respondents.
CCSWG is sponsored by the Humanities and Critical Code Studies (HaCCS) Lab at the University of Southern California. (@haccs) and Digital Arts & Humanities Commons at UC Santa Barbara.
Coordinated by Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), Mark Marino (USC), Catherine Griffiths (USC), Ali Rachel Pearl (USC), and Teddy Roland (UCSB)

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Guest Poet: Jeremy Hight (Oct. 3, 2pm)

Jeremy_hightThe HaCCS Lab is proud to sponsor a guest visit from locative media pioneer, Jeremy Hight! He will be visiting the Monthly E-Lit Reading Group, presenting works and talking about the magic of making electronic literature.

jeremy_hight_bookJeremy Hight

October 3, 2pm

420 Taper Hall (Ide Commons Room)

I am the Ghost Here

Jeremy Hight has an MFA in Creative Writing from Cal Arts.  He co-created the early Locative Narrative work 34 North 118 West and the code edited text and image work “Carrizo Parkfield Diaries.”  He collaborated with Mark Skwarek and created Augmented Reality poetry and poetics. He is currently making poems from random gifs people post on Facebook, a novel and several collaborative e-lit and text and image projects.  He has published two books of experimental prose. The first (I Am The Ghost Here)  is a collection of literary fiction and noir composed from elements of social media. The second (What Remains)  is a collection of short stories written by watching famous sci films and taking out all the main sci fi and telling tales from whatever was left over. He has a book coming out soon of poems composed from the incompletion of memories in recall. He lives with his soul mate Lisa and his awesome cat Samson.

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Presenting HaCCS Lab at UCLA DH Infrastructure Conference

Today, Mark Marino will be presenting a tour of the HaCCS Lab at the UCLA Digital Humanities Infrastructure conference.

The tour emphasizes ways to harness existing resources in order to call-forth a virtual lab (with shout-outs to Lori Emerson, ELO, and HASTAC, among others).

Here’s a link to the tour if you wish to go on the self-guided version.  In-person tours are available by appointment via SnapChat.

HaCCS Lab Co-founders Mark Marino, Tara McPherson, & Craig Dietrich

HaCCS Lab Co-founders Mark Marino, Tara McPherson, & Craig Dietrich

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Maria Goicoechea discusses E-Lit in Espana

Digital Literary Studies in Español .
María Goicoechea
University Complutense of Madrid 
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 4pm, WPH B36 
(a talk in English)
The HaCCS Lab is sponsoring a talk by María Goicoechea on contemporary digital literary studies in Spanish language works.  She will be presenting her recent research in the creation of digital editions of works of literature in Spanish.
María Goicoechea has a degree in English Philology from the University Complutense of Madrid and a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Communication from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Her doctoral dissertation is entitled The Reader in Cyberspace: A Literary Ethnography of Cyberculture (2004). Currently, she is an associate professor in the English Department at the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM). Her research interests include literary theory, ethnography, and cyberculture. She is a member of LEETHI Research Group (UCM), and of HERMENEIA (Universitat de Barcelona), two interdisciplinary research groups dedicated to the study of literature and computers. Her CV can be found here:
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CCS at SLSA 2016

Several HaCCS Lab affiliates will be presenting new research in Critical Code Studies at the 2016 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) conference in Atlanta (November 3-6, 2016). Below are the panel abstracts of these papers that extend the work of CCS in innovative ways.

Panel 10F: Saturday, November 5, 1:30 PM-3:30 PM Ansley 6 (projector, screen, and speakers)
Critical Code Studies and Creativity
Without questions, computer source code has been an explosive tool of creativity for over fifty years. However, in the realm of code, meaning is created in ways distinct from and yet complementary to other symbolic systems. Using the methods of Critical Code Studies, this panel will explore the meaning created through approaches to code. To begin, we will examine the ways code through its own rhetorical structures enables argumentation in critical and creative inquiry. As a means of rhetorical expression, we will then consider code as a means of social engagement. Since expression in code is constrained by programming languages, we will also examine the ways in which languages themselves facilitate or inhibit that expression. Finally, we will consider the way rule-based play in Live Action Role Play (larp) can be understood when situated as encoded play and read through the tools of CCS. These four presentations will give way to a discussion with the audience of the implications of regarding code as a means of communication.  Chair: Mark Marino

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