The Logocentric Context

by CT on February 3, 2014

Programming languages are part and expression of the Western logo-centric context. The ‘logos’ here, not anymore understood as thought or rationality, but only as symbolic production. A given that apparently needs not explanation because it perfectly reflects the social substrate and complements it. Let’s be guarded:

We have seen that, like all texts in the electronic writing space, the texts of artificial intelligence form a network of elements and pointers. All electronic texts are self-sufficient, in the sense that each element refers only to other elements in the network. This apparent self-sufficiency raises questions about the meaning and reference of the electronic writing space. What happens in this new technology to the written word as a symbol: what is the semiotics of electronic writing?  […] What the computer promises is the embodiment of semiotic views of language and communication: that is, the views of Peirce, Saussure, Eco, and others. And this is hardly surprising, since semiotics itself is a product of the same intellectual forces that have produced the computer, including symbolic logic, linguistics, and philosophy. The computer is a machine for creating and manipulating signs; the signs may be mathematical, verbal, or pictorial. Computer programming and indeed all kinds of writing and reading by computer are exercises in applied semiotics. The first lesson any sophisticated computer user must learn is the difference between a sign and its reference, between the address of a location in the computer’s memory and the value stored at that address. This dichotomy characterizes the machine at all levels: it is at the essence of hypertext and of programs for artificial intelligence, in all of which text is simply a texture of signs pointing to other signs.”

J.D. Bolter “Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing” – 1991

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