Reading “SOFTWARE TAKES COMMAND”

Lev Manovich publishes his latest book “Software Takes Commandon-line – I’m discussing the November 20, 2008 version – and he is open to suggestions for cover art, or illustrations.

softbook_coverA, as shown on Manovichs  website
softbook_coverA, as shown on Manovich's website

Nice idea, on-line pre-publishing, and it will not keep me from bying a print copy when the final version will be available. 😉

With this book Manovich puts his own book “The Language of New Media” (completed 1999; published by MIT Press 2001) , where he a.o. coined the term ‘software studies’, in perspective.

”New media calls for a new stage in media theory whose beginnings can be traced back to the revolutionary works of Robert Innis and Marshall McLuhan of the 1950s. To understand the logic of new media we need to turn to computer science. It is there that we may expect to find the new terms, categories and operations that characterize media that became programmable. From media studies, we move to something which can be called software studies; from media theory — to software theory.” (p. 5, 6)

“Software takes command” redefines the concept of ‘software studies’ as a new academic discipline: a unique object of study, and at the same time a new research method.

“[…] I think that Software Studies has to investigate both the role of software in forming contemporary culture, and cultural, social, and economic forces that are shaping development of software itself.”
(p. 6)

And if we are to focus on that software layer itself – a layer that permeates all areas of contemporary societies – we need a new methodology. Manovich stresses here that he is writing about cultural software: “software programs which are used to create and access media objects and environments.” (p. 13)

His book is an interesting continuation of exploring and identifying the medialayers – speaking of software-layers would probably be more appropriate – in society, but it does not provide a methodology for software studies. On the other hand, just as he provided us in his book “The Language of New Media” with a language to discuss New Media, Lev Manovich provides us now with a language to discuss what software studies are, could be or should be. That already sounds like being part of a methology.

Anyhow, “Software takes command” is part of a larger effort to establish software studies as an academic field; the video repository of “SoftWhere 2008” looks certainly very interesting in that context.

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