We speak with Tim Cowlishaw, BAU, Doctoral Candidate at College of Arts & Design Barcelona.
Whether as part of giant technology corporations or open-source software projects, software developers are increasingly responsible for defining, building, and maintaining the infrastructure of our social world, and much critical and anthropological attention has been paid to the ways in which the cultures and practices of software development influence the materiality and embedded politics of these infrastructures. However, less critical attention has been paid to software development deployed to less instrumental ends, in particular, creative and artistic practices that use software as a medium. We claim, building on Nick Seaver (2021)s work on care and scale as contrasting values in the development of software systems, that paying attention to such personal, creative software practices provides a valuable opportunity for a deepened understanding of cultures of software development in general, by articulating and making visible the differences between the development of aesthetic and instrumental software objects - a distinction which is elided when software development is studied in more general undifferentiated terms. In addition, we argue that software art and the creative practice of software development offer a useful means of interrogating the ontology of software and digital artefacts, arguing that such practices are a form of ontological designing (Willis 2006) producing digital objects (Hui 2016) which serve to expose the ontology and embedded politics of software artefacts and systems more generally. Finally, we argue that such creative practices constitute a care-ful (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017) approach to software development, building on the Critical Technical Practice of Philip Agre (1997), offering one example of how critical and ethical considerations might be usefully incorporated into professional software development practices.
This episode is a live recording from Hacking Everything. The Cultures and Politics of Hackers and Software Workers panel organized at the European Association for the study of Science and Technology (EASST) 2022 conference in Madrid on 2022-07-07. The hosts are Paula Bialski, Andreas Bischof and Mace Ojala. Audio production by Heights Beats at Hotmilk Records, who also produced the theme track. We are grateful for Chemnitz University of Technology for funding.