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Lecture 7

CS351 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Procedural Programming, Jean Baudrillard, Automatic Programming

Communication Studies
Course Code
Jeff Heydon

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Lecture 7
On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge
Framing It
-Jean Baudrillard, in The Ecstasy of Communication argues that “we no longer partake in the
drama of alienation, but are the ecstasy of communication. And this ecstasy is obscene”
because “in the raw and inexorable light of information everything is immediately transparent,
visible or exposed”
-Although extreme, Baudrillards conflation of information (and thus computation) with
transparency resonates widely in popular and scholarly circles, from fears over propaganda
behind national databases to examinations of “surveillance society”
-This conflation is remarkably at odds with the actual operations of computation; for computers
become transparency machines, the fact that they compute- that they generate text and
images rather then merely represent or reproduce what exists elsewhere- must be forgotten”
The Computer
-As our machines increasingly read and write without us, as our machines become more and
more unreadable, so that seeing no longer guarantees knowing (if it ever did) we the so-
called users are offered more to see, more to read
-The computer, that most non visual and nontransparent device- has paradoxically fostered
“visual culture” and “transparency’
-you don't realize how non-transparent your computer actually is until it dies
-“The current common sense computer science definition of software is a “set of instructions
that direct a computer to do a specific task” As a set of instructions, its material status is
unstable; indeed, the more you dissect software, the more it falls away”
-Automatic programming, what we call programming today, arose from a desire to reuse code
and to recruit the computer into its own operation- that is, to transform singular instructions
into a language a computer could write
-Higher-level programming languages, unlike assembly language, explode ones instructions
and enable one to forget the machine. They enable one to run a program on more than one
machine- a property now assumed to be “natural” property of software
-Computation depends on “yes, sir” in response to short declarative sentences and
imperatives that are in essence commands
-The command line is a mere operating system (OS) simulation. Commands have enabled the
slippage between programming and action that makes software such a compelling yet
logically “trivial” communications system
-Goods and Hoppers recollections also reveal the routinization of programming: The analyst at
Bletchley Park was soon replaced by decision trees. Hopper the programmer became an
advocate of automatic programming. Thus routinization or automation lies at the core of a
profession that likes to believe it has successfully automated every profession but its own
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