With his new book, Warren Sack provides an alternative history of software that places the liberal arts at the very center of software’s evolution. Sack invites artists and humanists to see how their ideas are at the root of software and invites computer scientists to envision themselves as artists and humanists.
The book is available at: https://mitpress.mit.edu/
Warren Sack is a media theorist, software designer, and artist whose work has been exhibited at SFMoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and the ZKM Center for Art and Media. Warren is an affiliate of the Science & Justice Research Center, Chair and Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Join the release party: Monday, June 3 from 3:00-4:30pm in Communications 139. (Poster)
In The Software Arts, Warren Sack offers an alternative history of computing that places the arts at the very center of software’s evolution. Tracing the origins of software to eighteenth-century French encyclopedists’ step-by-step descriptions of how things were made in the workshops of artists and artisans, Sack shows that programming languages are the offspring of an effort to describe the mechanical arts in the language of the liberal arts.
Sack offers a reading of the texts of computing—code, algorithms, and technical papers—that emphasizes continuity between prose and programs. He translates concepts and categories from the liberal and mechanical arts—including logic, rhetoric, grammar, learning, algorithm, language, and simulation—into terms of computer science and then considers their further translation into popular culture, where they circulate as forms of digital life. He considers, among other topics, the “arithmetization” of knowledge that presaged digitization; today’s multitude of logics; the history of demonstration, from deduction to newer forms of persuasion; and the post-Chomsky absence of meaning in grammar. With The Software Arts, Sack invites artists and humanists to see how their ideas are at the root of software and invites computer scientists to envision themselves as artists and humanists.
“Warren Sack’s creative thinking across the arts and sciences has kept my cyborg on her toes, provoked again and again to test out how to reinvent practices for thinking, designing, working, and playing together for less deadly worlds. Sack’s historically attuned book investigates the folded zones linking the mechanical and liberal arts as new languages called programs have been built for emerging worlds. Rhetorics, epistemologies, and procedures are at stake in the digital media that shape and are shaped by the arts of computation. This is an important book about how things come to be in the workshops of the software arts that can never pretend to the separation of interpreting, making, and thinking.”
Donna Haraway, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz