The Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab is the first university space to pursue the exploration of the interpretation of computer source code using the methodologies of Critical Code Studies. Based at the University of Southern California, the HaCCS Lab will promote the development of critical vocabulary, case studies, and cross-disciplinary dialogue, specifically between the humanities and computer science.
According to the essay that initiated the field, Critical Code Studies is the application of humanities hermeneutics to the interpretation of the extra-functional significance of computer source code. Examining digital objects primarily through the lens of the code, Critical Code Studies explores the rhetoric, material history, style, and culture of code — aspects that have previously been only marginally discussed in computer science courses and scholarship. In this way, CCS offers to bridge computer science with scholars in the areas of letters by opening up discussions about the implications of the source code that directs so much of contemporary life. CCS extends the pursuit of code analysis beyond what the code does to ask what the particular configuration of signs means for the culture at large.
USC has been at the center of Critical Code Studies since its inception in 2006. It held the first conference in Critical Code Studies and facilitated the 2010 Critical Code Studies Working Group. The proceedings from the first conference appear in USC-based Vectors journal. Although CCS is a discipline that is spreading across the country as well as internationally, the founding of the lab at USC will help to foster the development of code scholarship at an institution that has played such a pivotal role.
The HaCCS Lab has been established to serve as a resource for scholars embarking on critical code studies, by building bibliographies, directing research, and pursuing grants for the development of the field. It will promote the learning of programming languages and coding paradigms by humanities scholars as well as the “translation” of humanities hermeneutics into the conceptual paradigms of computer science. The Lab will also work to articulate Critical Code Studies with the related fields of Software Studies, Platform Studies, and Media Forensics.
The HaCCS Lab will promote dialogue by organizing conferences and symposia that bring together computer science and humanities researchers in order to establish a common vocabulary.
The HaCCS coordinates its efforts with a variety of campus units, including:
• The Institute for Multimedia Literacy
• The Center for Scholarly Technology
• The Center for Transformative Scholarship