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Computing as Writing

2015
Author:

Daniel Punday

Computing as Writing

If we consider e-book authors to be writers, should we think of e-book programmers as writers, too?

What does it mean to be a writer today? Is writing code for an app equivalent to writing a novel? Should we change how we teach writing? Computing as Writing ponders both the implications and contradictions of the common metaphor that equates computing and writing, from “notebook” computers to “writing” code.

Daniel Punday traces the idea—an idea that he shows to be pervasive—that to control computers we typically engage in a sort of writing. This insight informs our understanding of computation in culture and also enriches our notion of writing generally. It should, additionally, help nonprogrammer humanists see that, since they have learned to write, they can learn to do that specific type of writing that is known as programming.

Nick Montfort, Massachusetts Institute of Technology*

This book examines the common metaphor that equates computing and writing, tracing it from the naming of devices (“notebook” computers) through the design of user interfaces (the “desktop”) to how we describe the work of programmers (“writing” code). Computing as Writing ponders both the implications and contradictions of the metaphor.

During the past decade, analysis of digital media honed its focus on particular hardware and software platforms. Daniel Punday argues that scholars should, instead, embrace both the power and the fuzziness of the writing metaphor as it relates to computing—which isn’t simply a set of techniques or a collection of technologies but also an idea that resonates throughout contemporary culture. He addresses a wide array of subjects, including film representations of computing (Desk Set, The Social Network), Neal Stephenson’s famous open source manifesto, J. K. Rowling’s legal battle with a fan site, the sorting of digital libraries, subscription services like Netflix, and the Apple versus Google debate over openness in computing.

Punday shows how contemporary authors are caught between traditional notions of writerly authority and computing’s emphasis on doing things with writing. What does it mean to be a writer today? Is writing code for an app equivalent to writing a novel? Should we change how we teach writing? Punday’s answers to these questions and others are original and refreshing, and push the study of digital media in productive new directions.

Computing as Writing

Daniel Punday is professor of English at Purdue University Calumet. He is the author of several books, including Five Strands of Fictionality: The Institutional Construction of Contemporary American Fiction and Writing at the Limit: The Novel in the New Media Ecology.

Computing as Writing

Daniel Punday traces the idea—an idea that he shows to be pervasive—that to control computers we typically engage in a sort of writing. This insight informs our understanding of computation in culture and also enriches our notion of writing generally. It should, additionally, help nonprogrammer humanists see that, since they have learned to write, they can learn to do that specific type of writing that is known as programming.

Nick Montfort, Massachusetts Institute of Technology*

In a world in which the distinction between writing and computing is increasingly blurred, Punday's volume raises some intriguing questions and offers some new ways to look at writing and computing.

CHOICE

Computing as Writing

Contents

Preface
1. My Documents: Remembering the Memex
2. Writing, Work, and Profession
3. Programmer as Writer
4. E-books, Libraries, and Feelies
5. Invention, Patents, and the Technological System
6. Audience Today: Between Literature and Performance
Conclusion: Invention, Creativity, and the Teaching of Writing
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index