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VWN Product Reviews: My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts

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Site Shop > My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts




Hayles argues that the pace of language change is a constant flux. There are 800 odd distinct human languages in the world, and countless thousands of regional dialects. They are slowly dying out and coalescing as the world shrinks. Yet, it is not these languages Hayles refers to. Instead, it is the countless thousands of computer languages, scripted, interpreted and compiled. New languages are constantly emerging, proliferating, and fading into obsolescence.

Each new language carries with it a required mindset; no different to the subtle mindset changes as spoken language changes. These thought patterns linger when a coder has used a language for a while, and trickle down into everything they do. Thus, there is a relationship between code language and human language, with one affecting the other. The author explores how their interactions have affected creative, technological, and artistic practices.

My Mother Was a Computer explores how the impact of code on everyday life has become comparable to that of speech and writing: as language and code have grown more entangled, the lines that once separated humans from machines, analogue from digital, and old technologies from new ones have become blurred.

Hayles argues that we live in an age of intermediation that challenges our ideas about language, subjectivity, literary objects, and textuality. Hayles sharply portrays such interactions: how code differs from speech; how electronic text differs from print. She looks at the effects of digital media on the idea of the self. the effects of digitalisation on printed books, being another angle for consideration: how the coded landscape is changing the fundamental nature of existing language accessibility.

As coding languages become ever more complex, and emergent behaviours appear that were not explicitly coded; as neural networks and genetic algorithms, artificial intelligence and virtual embodiment grow, how do our perceptions on computers as living beings change and grow.

She moves on from these points, to look at the future of such interactions, and the point at which human consciousness is blended with code-built constructs; the point at which minds are directly connected to the world wide web.

 

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