Chapter 9 Machine Language and the Illegibility of the Zwischen

In: Legibility in the Age of Signs and Machines
David Gauthier
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The term “machine language” is a bizarre construct; it suggests that a machine can be addressed directly through language and, in turn, that words or codes can be viewed as the source of the machine’s physical actions. In this way, the term works to conceal the notion of execution, that is, the physical work of the machine itself. In this chapter, David Gauthier posits that this perceived relation between language and execution, problematically symptomatic in New Media and Software Studies, leads to contentious conceptions of computing. Rather than upholding a disjunction between computational legibility – machine as language – and illegibility – machine as black box executing written programs, Gauthier puts forth a consideration of the Zwischen: the critical interim state during which codes lose their determinacy while the machine acts.…

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