Live Coding

"We Are All Live Coders" - Live Coding: A User's Manual

I love the MIT Press books about software studies. I've discussed my love for Wendy Chun in previous posts and in online discussion groups. I was recommended this book about live coding and was shocked by how precious it was until I realized it was from the same series.

The (multiple, many) authors begin the book by refusing to define live coding because doing so would "stake a claim to its future," which is a move I appreciate. Instead of prescribing meaning, the authors describe multiple angles from which live coding can be approached:

It's hard to describe how passionate I am about the study of liveness. What makes us alive? Why are we alive?

Computation, to me, relates to liveness because computation predates the modern von Neumann computer by centuries (if not milennia) - computation is an aid to human existence. The authors of Computing before Computers and The Universal History of Computing describe computation as the automation or mechanization of numerical calculations. I feel that, since multiple civilizations independently developed their own aids to calculation (such as the abacus), computation is simply part of being alive.

I have become enthralled by the relationship between textiles, weaving, and programming, which lead me to appreciate the references to weaving scattered throughout the book. Like the abacus, the loom is a precursor to the modern computer.

The authors explain that “textus, literally a thing woven" is related to "texere, meaning to weave or interweave, to braid or fit together," from which one can conclude that "all writing is technology”.*

I was recommended this book because I worked on a live coding project without knowing it. Indeed, we are all live coders.

* Also related: code is a form of writing, modern computer hardware evolved from the Jacquard loom etc.