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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Other Software

  • Author(s): McWilliams, Chandler B.
  • et al.

This paper considers the absence of the human actor, specifically the programmer, from Friedrich Kittler’s analysis of software in his essay There is no Software. By focusing too intently on the machine and its specific, material existence, Kittler removes the human user / operator / writer from his analysis of software. Thus, he has no choice but to interpret the layers of language, assembler, opcode and WordPerfect, DOS, BIOS—both chains ending in an essentializing reduction to voltages—as an attempt to obfuscate the material operations of the machine in the name of intellectual property.

By both reasserting the presence of the programmer within Kittler’s structure, and attacking the conception of code-as-text, this essay offers an alternate description of the being of software, one which emphasizes not just the execution of code on the machine, but also the programmer’s role as reader and writer of code.

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