Vocable Code

Research output: Non-textual formComputer programmeResearchpeer-review

Vocable Code (2017-) is both a work of “software art” (software as artwork, not software to make an artwork) and a “codework” (where the source code and critical writing operate together) produced to embody “queer code”, examining the notion of queerness in computer coding through the interplay of different human and nonhuman voices. Collective statements and voices complete the phrase “Queer is…” and together make a computational and poetic composition. The texts and voices are repeated and disrupted by mathematical chaos, creating a dynamic audio-visual literature and exploring the performativity of code, subjectivity and language. Behind the executed web interface, the code itself is deliberately written as a codework, a mix of a computer programming language and human language, exploring the material and linguistic tensions of writing and reading within the context of (non)binary poetry and computer programming.

Fundamentally and technically speaking, 0s and 1s are the basic binary digits that structure how a computer functions and how the code is executed. All the abstracted and semantic layers of source code are ultimately reduced to either 0 or 1 for machine execution and processing. In this way, there is, essentially, another layer of interpretation when talking about computer code, from source code to machine code (also known as bytecode), yet it is computationally impossible to escape binary logic.
Computational logic and algorithmic decisions are technically structured and written in the spirit of absolute clarity without any ambiguity. It promotes a particular style of writing and thinking as binary: on or off, true or false, yes or no, something or nothing, which is ideally nothing in between, or nothing can be undecided, or nothing as non-binary. This binary computational thinking is influential and predominant that might force us to think in dualism, both implicitly and explicitly.
In view of this, the source code of Vocable Code is a written poetry, which is an attempt to think through the cultural implications of binary logic and how to design for differences that cater otherness and betweenness. Inspired by the feminist programming language C+=, Vocable Code avoids the writing of source code with binary ‘0’ or ‘1’, a single ‘x’ or ‘y’, and a single operator with ‘<’ or ‘>’ (these syntaxes as rhetorical devices are commonly used in computer programming). Although it takes two to make a binary, inequalities are expressed in the tendency to privilege one side of the equation over the other - with positive and negative attributes accordingly.

Central to the organization of the work is the technique of constrained writing and the attention to different voices, both human and nonhuman. On the one hand, the work collects statements and voices from participants with given constraints, such as the numbers of words and sentences. On the other, constrained writing is also part of the code writing process, which is not only about negotiating and incorporating computer syntaxes and functions but also designing a code structure where code could be spoken(executed). What does it mean by executing the voices while the program is running, or otherwise preloading all the voices prior to the program starts? (see function SpeakingCode in the source code). How could a program express the notion of queerness? Vocable Code is what I consider as a form of queer code, which promotes a different style of writing code beyond effective code and optimal performance. Instead, it is a constant unsettling and questioning on the binary thinking and logic, both culturally and technically.

More info: http://siusoon.net/vocable-code/
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2018
Media of outputInternet
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventELO 2018 Mind The Gap! - Montreal, Montreal, Canada
Duration: 13 Aug 201817 Aug 2018


ExhibitionELO 2018 Mind The Gap!
Internet address

    Research areas

  • code, vocable, Poetry

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ID: 129824919