Executable Texts: Programs as Communications Devices and their use in Shaping High-tech Culture

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This paper takes a fresh look at software, treating it as a document, manuscript, corpus, or text to be consumed among communities of programmers and uncovering the social roles of these texts within two specific sub-communities and comparing them. In the paper, the social roles of the texts are placed within the context of the technical and cultural constraints and environments in which programs are written. Within that context, the comments emphasize the metaphoric status of programming languages and the social role of the comments themselves. These social roles are combined with the normative intentions for each comment, creating a dynamic relationship of form and function for both normative and identity-oriented purposes. The relationship of form and function is used as a unifying concept for a more detailed investigation of the construction of comments, including a look at a literary device that relies on the plural pronoun "we" as the subject. The comments used in this analysis are derived from within the source code of the Linux kernel and from a Corporate environment in the US.


Keywords: Programming, Culture, Code Comments, Communications, Open-Source
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Executable Texts


Stuart Mawler

Graduate Student, Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech
College Park, Maryland, USA

Stuart brings more than 15 years of IT experience, primarily as a software architect, to his research interests in the Sociology of Technology.

Ref: T08P0037