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Welcome to the 2020 Critical Code Studies Working Group, our 7th biennial. I’m Zachary Mann, and on behalf of Sarah Ciston, Jeremy Douglass, and Mark Marino, I welcome you to the premiere site of critical code studies.
Two thousand and twenty-two marks the 12 year anniversary of the first Working Group, and our 7th biennial meeting,
with more than 140 accepted participants joining us from all over the world. The theme of this year’s working group is: “interpret, explore, and investigate.” The Working Group is Sponsored the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab at the University of Southern California and the Digital Arts & Humanities Commons at UC Santa Barbara.
Critical Code Studies is more than an academic subfield; it is a way of thinking more critically about the objects we use or encounter every day. It is about taking note of the parts of our digital lives that we usually don’t think twice about.
For the next three weeks, participants will visit the working group online forum to join in weekly plenary discussions
on four topics:
Our plenary discussion leaders for this working group will include: Anne Sullivan & Anastasia Salter; Nick Montfort; Winnie Soon & Geoff Cox; micha cárdenas; Xin Xin & Fabiola Hanna; and Qianqian Ye & Evelyn Masso.
In addition to the themed weeks, we will also be highlighting three new books that are highly relevant to our community:
Finally, we will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Processing programming language family.
Our first full week of this working group begins on Monday January 17th -- which, in the United States, coincides on this year with the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal and state holiday for participants in the U.S. We may mark this occasion by reflecting on questions of race, ethnicity, labor, civil rights, and justice, which have remained central concerns in ongoing conversations on reading code critically.
For some participants this is your very first time joining the Working Group. For others you are returning -- and some have been attending for a decade. Each time we have re-convene this community we are amazed at its diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, methods and goals.
We welcome you, and we invite you to engage with the working group in several ways.
As in every working group, threads are slated to be published in electronic book review. We look forward to your contributions.
Critical Code Studies is an evolving interdisciplinary field centered around computer code as it is embedded in culture—including the situated significance of code artifacts and the processes by which code is written, read, and circulated. The field intersects many disciplines, methods, and conversations—including computer science, cultural studies, digital humanities, media arts, media archeology, STS, software studies, platform studies, game studies, and more.
As the field grows, we can continue to apply the methods of critical code studies—from the political to the poetic to the material. Two milestones since the last Working Group highlight the field’s range of applications: The Anti-Racist Critical Code Studies Working Group launched to explore how critical code studies can actively engage with contemporary issues of algorithmic injustice, as software continues to surveil and subjugate bodies. We also launched our Knit&Purl discord group, examining the intersections or interweavings of code and stitchcraft giving rise to our second week’s theme. Both of these special interest groups are open for new members.
If you would like to get more involved, consider becoming an affiliate of the HaCCS Lab or joining our new Discord. In addition to sponsoring guest speakers and reading groups, the HaCCS Lab also coordinates panel and paper proposals and tracks for conferences. Also, forthcoming are special issues of Digital Humanities Quarterly, featuring past participants in Working Groups.
Over the past two years since our last Working Group, we have seen the emergence and expansion of kindred studies, algorithmic studies, data studies, critical AI studies, et cetera, all of which lend additional tools to analysis while redoubling the need for scholars to be able to unpack the intricacies and complexities of code. While the number of approaches to digital objects increases, the urgent need for methods of discussing code itself has only intensified as software processes continue to extend into every facet of the world. We should not abdicate our responsibility to read code when so much code is reading us.
We are grateful to all of you for joining us and are eager to join in discussion with you during this working group. We are especially happy to have first-timers here. We welcome you and look forward to your contributions.