codework takes the functional idea of code - a language that allows human to computer speech - and works to analyze it within itself. computer code only has meaning when and if understood by a computer. codework looks into the nature of that language and, at its best, gives place for an analysis of that language, as opposed to looking at it as an abstracted layer that operates hardware in a certain manner. on a basic level, it admits that humans can read the code and have responses to it, try to make it beautiful in some way, and so on - with the existence of that code as a given, what would a fictionalized version of it look like?
it is akin to building a fictional trope off instructional manuals, dictionary formats, alphabetical lists - a script that has a certain function and a resultant semiotic byproduct. to take that byproduct as a substrate for formulating a new form of writing. but in trying to find a ground zero of engagement in computer writing, we choose code (and not an instructional manual) because, in software ontology, the nature of that writing is ostensibly fundamental. it does not stake claims for symbolic diagrams, circuit design schematics, physical descriptions of circuit activity, or many other possibilities. it engages with software as it is already text and as it takes certain forms.
so it chooses to isolate elements as a representative sample of what is a kind of computer engagement. this is a question that needs to be continually pressed. from writer to writer the answers vary, as they do and will in the microhistory of the web. for mary ann breeze this question condensed into a branded newspeak that mixes a visceral intensity with politics, feminism and selected pseudocode bits. it is neologistic, interested in disjunction within the word, it is a writing on the extremes of the grotesque, the engaging, and the interface of the virtualized performance world and its fleshly remains. for alan sondheim this involves inhabiting the network, subjectivizing its world, and exploring work as much as performative process as its products. phenomenological philosophy, avatar ruminations, poetry, experiments, pseudophysics-oriented tangents, virtual dance and sound are all unified into a practice that considers that engages with the languages of the web personally and aesthetically. for lo_y, it is an ephemeral, nameless practice, whose minimalism and anti-aestheticism takes the self-referentiality of what "codework" implies to its logical conclusion and foregrounds a more general consideration of semiotics and communicative language. through noise glitch pictures and non-semantic code-like texts lo_y explodes the attempts of indicative language, hearkening back to nonsensical practices of the past, including conceptual mainstays of western poetics, through the fetishization of code to foreground a system of noise semiotics which is as applicable to end-users and writers as it is to computer scientists.
codework has an affinity to net-born categories (new aesthetic, asemic poetry) in that it bypasses the academic framework for the world of the artist-run, the practitioner-defined, the manifesto and artist's notebook. it is a term coined by sondheim that refers to a range of writers that on the hand can be said to share a common ground of questions and various solutions, and on the other that unifies (like all such categorical divisions) a group of artist-writers that have quite distinct practices. the term - work, a general category for artist creation is termed with code, and why code? because in asking the question, what is the difference between a literary work for the screen and not the book (or anything else), this is one of the concepts we can consider. but at what point does this archeological essentialism break down? if the book is about the manufacture, binding, and printing onto paper, should book-based works ultimately be about this? what is the fundamental reference for the web and computer-based work, is it the software on the system, the architecture of the computer, the physical science of its possibility, the theory of that possibility? moreoever what is the essence of web language? the multimedia, the web 2.0 network, user experience, community-driven content, pop and fan sites, porn and shock sites - what is its defining characteristic, what separates it from other media, what is the best way to talk about it? increasingly, the web is a space not just for coders, but for the everyday user, the citizen user, the parents that wouldn't have built themselves a web page in the 90s have a facebook profile in 2012. the questions of particular, computationally-focussed language, becomes one of general language use, code sequences are generalized into memes, viral links, pseudo-oral chats, instant tweets, images that are one-liners of humour, inspiration or information. the user-world merges with the pop world, the postcommercial world of social media networks - the language is as immediate and colloquial as a social gathering, and trapped in a corporate space of data mining and ad revenues. the coder looms over this world and among this world as the architects and engineers do cities, and the bookbinder does the print world - a minority, yet indispensable and configuring the scientific possibilities of what their medium affords.
codwearc offers possibilities in terms of the interface of codework with this increasingly user-driven environment. it is a false back-formation of codework into pseudo-old english. it suggests that codework itself is a later manifestation of a more traditional practice, which could simply be called media-specific writing. in the time of the germanic tribes, this may have been stone or other perishable materials, in the post-christian period this became scribal manuscripts. further it can be generalized to pyramids, to architectures, to scrolls, to whatever could afford inscription and serve as written forms to that language. its false history generalizes the idea of code, the idea of a symbol system both particular to a medium (ie. etching to a stone, ink tech for a book) and reflective of semiotic ordering. what is a critical reflection of code now also responds to the superstructure of those blueprints, the social media world where pluralities of language exist, throttled into a memescape of the popular and banal. codwearc projects a more general past into the future, resurrecting the neo-oral in the chat room, generalizes critical code into the oblique in language, to noise, to nonsense, to the mirrors of the pornographic and atrocious, now available in bite-sized meme-packets. it is a category that exists through its self-satire and mockery, that pays tribute to code in its use as archeological metaphor, and points to a more general picture that gives perspective on its particularity. the code it uses is naive, minimalist, and full of glitches - it reduces media-specificity to its absurd endpoint the way that the white cube gives us the essence of the sculptural. it recodes the asemantic output of the past into a picture of generalized media-specificity - where pictures, videos, sounds, code and language all coalesce into the banal, the socially remixed, the networked and the nonsensical. the word itself is difficult, noisy, unpronounceable - if its pseudohistory is missed, its foreignness is garnered, in either case failing to successfully refer, opening this question up in general terms.
lo_y forms a bridge between a logical reduction of the codeworked, to the noisy state of the social network. warnell, while skipping the absurdist move of codework as unworking codelike text, re-emerges as a social network performer, remixing others, playing into specific social spaces in blogger and myspace, and blurring the lines between work, comment, conversation and practice documentation. his oblique and computerly pictures become an epitomy of blogger-specific social artworks, and his practice of eschewing the conference-network for the user-network an example of a post-fluxus engagement that blurs writing, reading, exchange and reception, all while largely bypassing the publishing or exhibiting system. writers such as carmen racovitza epitomize this state, doing found work, remixing the work of others, performing the aesthetically banal and raising everyday comments to a state that is hard to dissociate from artistic performance, and literary events that are both somewhat quotidian and somewhat formalized. her work apes each network she inhabits, mirrors its architectures and cannot be considered in isolation from it. her themes match her practice, her conversation her aesthetic, ordinary language has never had a better case study, and the banal, contingent, plagiaristic and parasitic would be hard pressed to find a more sophisticated model.
this context opens up relations beyond these common interfaces - writing now becomes a networked practice, collaboration is a given, and common distinctions dissolve. the interdisciplinary and technically-specific work of a miekal and becomes high-lighted in this regard, both foreshadowing its practice and responding to it through collaborative engagements. whereas flarf writers come from the book world to codiy a small aspect of the novelty of the web, and concisely demonstrates a more robust practice that far predated it and was compatible with far more of the web's networks and possibilities. intergenral writers like faucher find a home, writing books of fiction, philosophy, radicalized poetry and every hybrid in between. the interdisciplinarian that could not easily exist before thrive in the multinymic and remixable environment of the web - the intergenral borges, oulipian, or experimentalist becomes a mainstay in informing a transformative stylist such as faucher. kierkegaard and his pseudonymous stylings become a central consideration, whether when looking at the meteoric web appearance/disappearance of an august highland, with his many writing names, or in studying the chameleon career of a talan memmot, where video, hyperfiction, theory and conceptualism all marry and remix into a practice that constantly reinvents its subject and culminates in the sophisticated and ironic genius of the underacademy. the writing of matina stamatakis, working through blogs, blog compilations, collaborative spaces, using text and graphics to create a visceral and poetic aesthetic whose subject is suitably liminal to be just outside the book world, as it is revelatory within the multifareous spaces of the web. there is no code here, although such metaphors are existed in her collaborative work with faucher, instead this work is, like all listed here, a more general response that exists in close response to the web as semiotic platform and postcode playspace for parasitic and collaborative performance and creation.
all of this exists in tandem with the recent explosions of gif art, tumblr communities, facebook groups and other such collaborative art networks, blurring the distinction between art and writing. the tools have created a secondary space, the protocol world is the social network for these end-users, for the naive to the intentionally banal, these users map out a folk art for the youtube generation, a fluxus for the 4chan troll. blogs such as the remix become exemplary in this transition, mixing elements of functional code engagement with an authorless ethic, a plagiaristic practice, and a unique combination of hi and low-fi. though flash has predominated on the blog, the founder himself, randy adams, works in graphics and sound and invites other practitioners regardless of technical expertise. this blog marries the sophistication of latter-day code activities, with the hi-fi aesthetic of flash coming to dominate, with a collective and banal world of pictures, community, remixes and parasitic engagement. it marries the somewhat controlled environment of the self-contained site, with mixes and references which leak into the world of general use, of a lack of expertise and of democratized participation. such collective blogs have become the hallmark of this social space - with marco giovenale's fluxishare, the now-defunct taking the brim, the largely french language collective nuls, which have now migrating into facebook picture-sharing environments such as the asemic poetry group and spidertangle. all of these take cues from the listserv world of codework genesis, often operating in tandem, and favour collective, open networks of posting and response over formalized presentations of work to external viewers. perhaps this is what codework is and was essentially about, the networked aspect, where the pseudo-code quality of the writing was secondary. codwearc then revels in its inapplicability, in how it does not fit - all this merely says that there is some unnameable practice, that the common and folk aspects of art and general creation cannot be differentiated at all, that people in "real life" and those on the web cannot be distinguished and that this sort of networked practice is not a net phenomenon but a common one. yet it is here in this post-corporate space of manufactured profiles and "personal" space that such a connection needs to be reaffirmed, sidestepping that ever ephemeral case for newness.
codework, the appreciation of that category, however vague and bound to certain rather distinct practices, highlights, both in theoretical absurdity and networked practice, what leads effectively into work that is closely associated with the protocols of its possibility - from the material technologies that give it birth, to the software databases that allow its social milieu to further proliferate. in either case, the definitions fail to come about except in conjunction to practice and say little beyond an attempted pointer to its makers and inhabitants. the search for the defining aspects of an environment fuel our search, but it is only stumbling that makes one get noticed and another glossed over. the codwearcer doesn't know theory or how to spell in english, but the noise inherent in his or her avoidance of recognizable channels makes for the perfect counterpart and jammer of the network space. not so much a definition, no, as some probes that collapse some other definitions and call attention to some activity that will collapse more.