Codes at Work

There are very few fields of expertise where software tools haven’t become the essential part of their craft and workflows [1] . The adoption of software binds together, as Nathan Ensmenger writes, »machines, people, and processes in an inextricably interconnected and interdependent system« which never goes without »conflict, negotiation, disputes over professional authority, and the conflation of social, political, and technological agendas. Software is perhaps the ultimate heterogeneous technology. It exists simultaneously as an idea, language, technology, and practice.« [2]
When tips and tricks of trade get embedded into the drop-down menus, it’s time for the experts to move on, full steam ahead: design after Photoshop; journalism after WordPress; advertisement after AdWords; photography after Instagram. The same goes for the institutions when they start to interact, overlap or just use digital networks. They need to restructure themselves in order to accommodate new procedures, flows of information, social relations, institutional memory, monitoring, control, and demand to understand the new system (they became) as a whole.
On one side of restructuring there are amateurs who master the software tools in their free time and on the other side there are masters of software tools like Google, and Apple who are frightening the fields by replacing the professionals with their (software) robots. [3] : “Tracing Concepts,” in: Volume, issue 28, Amsterdam 2011.)

Find the audio lecture in the publication Chronicles of Work.

  1. Jump Up
  2. Jump Up Nathan Ensmenger: The Computer Boys Take over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise. Cambridge 2010.
  3. Jump Up Edwin Gardner, Mars Marcell (ed.