**In my previous post, I shared a music video called ‘Jed’s Other Poem’, which got some really great responses in the comments. I decided to repost a part of my response from there as its own post to get more eyes on it, and because it relates to a conversation some of us were having in class last week. I also recommend checking out the comment discussion on that post though, so you can see others’ excellent contributions. This particular response followed Mike’s comment about whether computer code should be considered text, since its intention is not to be read, but to be run.**
That’s a really great point about the function of code. It makes me think of reading sheet music; the desired effect and meaning is the music itself, an audio performance, but at the same time a person who knows how to read it can get a general sense of the piece by just looking at the written notes. Someone who is familiar with the particular coding language may be able to get a sense of the program just from reading the code, though the intended/desired effect is likely the actual running program. This brings me back to the aesthetic aspect. Certainly sheet music and musical notes are used decoratively, for aesthetic and rhetorical purposes, often by those who can’t actually read them at all (and they may be appreciated by readers/audiences who can’t truly “read” them either). Here’s an example:
The notes on this dress are not meant to be read or played, but appreciated aesthetically, and for their rhetorical associations (culture, the arts, elegance perhaps?). I don’t read music myself, so I can’t say whether the notes on the dress are gibberish or not; it’s entirely possible they were taken from an actual piece of music, deliberately or randomly chosen. Still, their primary intended purpose here is NOT to be read as a text or a language, but to be viewed as an image. the same may be said for the code in Jed’s Other Poem; since you don’t see the complete code, and the program has already run so you know what it does, the code’s purpose seems more image-based and aesthetic.
This brings me back to another point some of us discussed (when the class split in two), the blurred line between what is text/word and what is image. I am a particular fan of visual art that incorporates text, a great example being Tracey Emin’s neon signs and quilts. Here’s some more pictures!
How do you evaluate things like this as written text? As a visual image? As a physical artifact? This is why so many of us seemed to agree with Prior’s response to Kress in indicating that his distinctions between modes were inaccurate and almost arbitrary, suggesting instead that multimodality “is better pursued through more complex and less certain classifications”. I certainly agree with that assessment; the delineations between modes and their individual affordances are at the most blurry and at the least non-existent.
I feel the need to come to some conclusion here about how we SHOULD think about modes, multimodality, and affordances, but I definitely don’t have that conclusion. Just more food for thought, I guess.