Writing in Code

Writing in Code

It’s like a foreign language

What started off as a seemingly easy task with little frustration eventually produced a downpour of confusion. Arranging my writing so that it contained the correct characters and symbols in the correct order to produce my desired output was unknown territory for me. My only knowledge of source code prior to working in MacDown was that pieces of software (like programs, applications, and websites) are comprised of various characters and symbols that are manipulated to perform desired results. Programmers can change how a software works by altering the various components of its code. However, I began to realize that knowing which characters and symbols did what was only half of the equation; the other half depended greatly on the syntax, or ordering, of these symbols. It was almost like learning how to write in another language, where both the words you select to use and the way in which you order your words is how you formulate coherent sentences. This is where a very obvious limitation lies: if one doesn’t know how to write in the correct or commonly understood way, then one won’t be able to produce their desired message. The inability to write in code properly and understand which characters and symbols do what reminded me of the state of disorder presented in Octavia Butler’s short story “Speech Sounds”. In her story, most people cannot speak or read, which as a result makes it impossible for people to effectively communicate with each other. Without a concrete language that everyone can speak and understand, people are not able to express themselves or their desires or hold a positive exchange. This is reiterated in the fight between the two men on the bus who are unable to communicate/understand one another:

“They stood in the aisle, grunting and gesturing at each other, each in his own uncertain T stance as the bus lurched over the potholes. The driver seemed to be putting some effort into keeping them off balance. Still, their gestures stopped just short of contact—mock punches, hand games of intimidation to replace lost curses.”

It doesn’t change the meaning

While reading Alan Liu’s “Imagining the New Media Encounter,” I couldn’t help but initially wonder what he actually meant by “new media.” The dictionary definition of “new media” is “means of mass communication using digital technologies such as the Internet.” However, I think that new media entails more than just the distribution and displaying of content on online platforms, such as websites and digital books. Through Liu’s writing, I realized how important it is to consider the differences between new and old media, as well as understand how these differences connect new and old media together. I thought of this idea when Liu associates the concept of “deja vu” with new media. He says:

“New media are old; and old media new. When new media is understood to be fully embedded in history rather than (as when it is facilely said that the internet makes books obsolete) post-historical, then it appears to be trickily both before and after its time, both (to borrow from Peter Krapp’s analysis) avant la lettre and déjá vu.”

He argues that new media is a repetition of old media since new media is simply adopting some of the qualities that are found in old media. Therefore, Liu is, in fact, arguing that new media is not “new” or “old” but a constant process. New media isn’t a reinvention of literature and meaning. Although writing is being replaced with “encoding” and sometimes this meaning can be unknown and confusing, that doesn’t mean the significance of each action is being changed. It’s being reinterpreted.

This is good because:

  • Different people have different ways of communicating with each other, but that does not change the meaning of their message.
  • Even though you are manipulating a message with a different type of “new” media, the meaning of your message is not being changed.