It matters what code we write code with

Ever since I stumbled into 100r’s And Viznut’s rabbitholes I’ve been fascinated and thinking about the various things springing forth from their respective worlding practices, such as the concept of permacomputing or the uxn assembler dialect.

I’ve got two separate interests in code and tech at large. First and foremost as a practitioner or crafts-person: I identify as a software developer. Not the best, not the most elegant, but I get stuff done. Secondly, I’m intellectually invested in how code and tech at large are interwoven with us and the the world: code as socio-technical infrastructures with a focus on power differences. Think Susan Leigh Star, Shannon Mattern or Donna Haraway.

I often approach my second interest through the first. Doing it often enables me to start thinking through it. So I am (still) learning uxn and try to incorporate permacomput’ish practices into my projects, such as a solar-powered server mounted to a tool-shed in a community-garden. It’s to early for me to write much about uxn from a practical perspective. I’m still learning, more to come on this topic another time.

But I’ve been thinking about 100r and viznut and what these people and their works mean to me. It boils down to these three aspects.

Personal symbols (idols?)

When I learned to reflect on my craft, some 12 years ago, I figured that a lot of shit is happening because of code, because of software. Which immediately triggered existential angst. It didn’t seem like code can do good im this world. Of course I refound many ways to practice ethical software development. Reflection became as important as the craft itself.

Within this frame I love to see people like 100r and viznut sharing their work and showing through examples and being, that other worlds are possible. In what they are doing the way they are doing it they become role models for me. Idols even, which might not be the healthiest thing, but that’s my personal disposition :) They stand in for ways of doing things, become beacons and entrypoints into communities of the likeminded.

Stories (we tell stories with)

It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories. [@harawayStayingTroubleMaking2016]

The way my idols (sorry) go about their business is by telling another story. This is one of the major aspects in Ursula K. Le Guin’s work, for example her short essay Carrier Bag of Fiction1 [@leguinCarrierBagTheory2020], in which she goes into which technologies really matter. Basically she’s saying that everything has a story, and most of the things have more then one. Haraway then really puts the finger on the importance of which story we tell, which story we focus on.

uxn and permacomputing are amongst other things, stories about technology. They’re the products on how we collectively dream up, imagine, design and build technology in our own ways and ideals, containing the seeds of refusal of an unsustainable path, which is only geared towards concentrating power and riches.

Thresholds (shifting like dunes)

I came to code via creative expression. When I encountered the web in my early teenage years I was fascinated by the possibility of clicking together a website and everybody with a connection can see them. I liked to do abstract and weird things and after a while I figured that I have direct access to the code and that opened a whole new world. I’ve been interested in creative coding ever since.

In my day to day work-life I miss this mingeling between technology, being and creative expression. An aspect I like especially in uxn and permacomputing is the infusion of tech with playfulness and ideals. These are approaches to technology on a very humane level, folding spheres of being onto each other and shifting the thresholds of meaning.

At least for me.