From: Alan Sondheim <>
Subject: short article on codework -
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 17:38:05 -0500 (EST)

(for rhizomes magazine - not connected with

Codeworld                                            */alansondheim/*

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Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.
The world is everything that is the case.
The world is all that is the case.
Die Welt ist die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen, nicht der Dinge.
The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
Die Tatsachen im logischen Raum sind die Welt.
Die Welt zerfallt in Tatsachen.
The facts in logical space are the world.
The world divides into facts.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
(From beginning and end of Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,
Ogden translation 1922, Pears/McGuinness translation 1961.)

TLP describes a Dostoevskian crystalline world divisible into facts. The
German is clear; the motto to the book, by Kurnberger states, in trans-
lation: ...and whatever a man knows, whatever is not mere rumbling, and
roaring that he has heard, can be said in three words.

TLP portends ideality. The world is logical, mathematical, capable of
clear division. Logical space is the space, I would assume, of the natural
numbers, if not the integers; as Russell says in his introduction, TLP
presents, inscribes, a finite mathematics - there's no room for the
continuum, and proof of the continuum hypothesis was far in the future.

The translations are different, almost never radically so, but different
nonetheless. There is a residue in German such that both English versions
converge, but often never meet. The sememes are equivalent, but only to a
degree; translations are almost never one-to-one.

In this logical space of facts, programming, and protocols, there is
always a wavering, always room, always doubt, critique, and I would say
desire as well. Never mind that this wor(l)d breaks down, evidenced a few
decades later by Godel, Tarski, Skolem, etc.: Coherency, living within the
safety-net of mathesis, matrix, maternality, remains a dream of humanity.
DNA coding, cryptography, hacking the world - all appear to guarantee that
everything is possible.

Computer languages are logical; computers are presumed so, but aren't;
protocols are logical as well; logical spaces may be compared to
drive-space; garbage-in, garbage-out; and so forth. Hacking depends on a
closed world with closed loopholes; the loopholes themselves are coherent,
logical, _there._

Codework, code writing, rides within and throughout the logical world, as
a disturbance, a sign of things to come, both extension and breakdown.

Where does the content lie? Is it in the translation of code into
messiness or residue? Is it in the interpretation of residue? Or perhaps,
and herewith a criticism, is it in the wonderment, confusion, and novelty
of the residue itself?

Is codework a minor art, minor literature? What is the point of repeatedly
shaking the scaffolding - if not the emergence, in the future, of an other
or another approach, or an other, being or organism, for which codework
now both provides augury and its weakness as portal/welcoming? For what is
come among us already no longer speaks the world of logical facts, just as
computers are no longer large-scale calculators, but something else as
well, something unnamed, fearful - that fearfulness already documented by,
say, Cruikshank in the 19th century.

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Codework references the alterity of a substrate which supports, generates,
and behaves as a catalyst in relation to its production. To this extent,
codework is self-referential, but no text is completely self-referential
(sr); things waver. So for example 'ten letters' and 'two words' and
'english' may be considered sr - but only to the extent that the phrases
are presumed to apply to themselves. Extended: 'This sentence has
thirty-one letters.' - 'This sentence has five words.' - 'This is an
english sen- tence.'

What is the residue? What are the sentences 'about'? On the surface,
letters, words, language. This is an additional or diacritical relation-
ship to sr; if one, for example, didn't know english, none of these would
make sense.

All sr possesses a residue - an _attribute tag._ In codework, which has a
component of sr, the tag may be plural, muddied - the world is never
presumed complete, total. Codework is not an instance in this regard of
mathematical platonism or Godelian-platonism; if anything it relies on the
breakdown of the ideal, pointing out the meaning-component of computation,
program, protocol, even the strictest formalisms.

Early on Whitehead pointed out that 2+2 = 4, but only in a certain formal
sense; in fact, the equation implies an operation or unifying process;
within the 4, the components are combined, their history lost. Strictly,
'2+2' and '4' are equivalent; within the symbolic, they differ - for that
matter, in terms of thermodynamics as well. This domain is expanded by
codework, which endlessly interferes.

The danger of codework is in its delimitation; it tends to repeat; the
works tend towards considerable length; automatic generation can flow
forever. Sometimes it appears as maw-machine emissions - text in, modified
text/partial code out. Sometimes it extends language into new uncharted
territories. Sometimes it references the labor and/or processing of
language. Sometimes it privileges the written over the spoken, or portends
the spoken within a convolution of stuttering and close-to-impossible
phonemic combinations. Sometimes it appears as a warning against the all-
too-easy assimilation of linguistic competency.

Sometimes it breaks free, relates to the subjectivity behind its produc-
tion, the subjectivity inherent in every presentation of symbol-symbolic.

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