RE: [-empyre-] replying to several posts
> ...could you tell me the names of books to read; does
> anybody specifically talk about the relation of natural language to
> prgramming language?
my favorite book about contemporary math is called The Mathematical Experience by Phillip J.
Davis and Reuben Hersh. It looks at the sociology and some language of mathematics, for
instance. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter is both fun and a terrific introduction
to a mathematical approach to language relevant to computer science.
But, reading your post above and below, I am at a loss to suggest non-technical books that
address what you're after. Perhaps others on the list can do better.
Searches of the term "Turing machine" or "Turing test" yield some interesting stuff. Doing such
a search, I come up with some goodies:
http://www.turing.org.uk (and the book written by Hodges about Turing is memorable)
Studying Turing's work is interesting because, in part, it is the story of a man who was a great
mathematician, helped defeat the Nazis with his work on Enigma--which also was important to his
work in 'the invention of computers'--but he was later defeated, as Christina pointed out, by
anti-homosexual legislation and its consequent mandatory hormone treatment (at the time). The
whole scandal his homosexuality provoked and the subsequent hormone drug treatment seems to have
been involved in his eventual suicide.
To give you the flavour of this work, consider the notion of the 'undecidable proposition'. This
is actually going back further from Turing to the work of Godel. What is an 'undecidable
proposition' in formal logic? It is somewhat exotic: it *cannot* be assumed to be false, *must*
be assumed to be true, but *cannot* be proved to be true. It is unlike an 'independent axiom' in
that one is free to assume such axioms *or their negation*. It is unlike a theorem in that
theorems follow from axioms, but 'undecidable propositions' do not follow from axioms (since
they cannot be proved to be true).
An informal example is 'This proposition is not provable.'
If it is false, then the proposition is provable. But if the proposition is provable, that means
the proposition is true. Contradiction (since we assumed it's false).
So it cannot be false. If it is a well-defined proposition (tricky), then it must be either true
or false. Since it cannot be false, it must be true. But if it is true, then 'This proposition
is not provable' is true, which means that the proposition, while true, is unprovably true.
The 'undecidable proposition' was theorized and used by Godel. The examples he came up with were
not of the informal variety I am using here. Instead, part of the job was to construct a
language in which the propositions that could be constructed had all to be either true or false
(which is not so in natural language, generally), and then find in the set of such constructable
propositions examples that are 'undecidable propositions'. To be able to create such a language
is to deal essentially with computer languages, not natural languages. Godel did this work in
Computer languages dispense with ambiguity altogether. Whereas ambiguity is important to poetry
and the ability of natural language to be rich but suggestive of multiple interpretations. I
read as little computer programming as i can get away with. when i do read it (by others), i
read it to appropriate and adapt it.
the 'code poetry' of mez and others interests me much more than reading the code of functional
computer programs unless the source code is supposed to be part of the experience and that is a
challenging undertaking since one is forced into precisions for the sake of functionality and
what happens after the computer reads it, not richness of the source text as statement in
itself. unless one can manage both at once. ted warnell is pretty interesting in that regard,
and i think talan memmott heads in that direction too. i publish source code sometimes but
generally it's to let people appropriate the functionality, ie, it's mainly for programmers that
i publish the source.
Computer language code is unambiguous and precise, so it doesn't interest me as poetry, for the
most part. what does interest me is what you can make it do/be (do/be do waa)--and what it
does/produces after the computer reads it is often quite ambiguous and imprecise, though the way
it is rendered and produced onscreen is exactingly precise.
my emphasis on the value of programming in digital art is mainly on the value of what
programming can make the computer do/be, and thereby what it can allow the viewer to do/be. not
so much on code as poetry in itself--mez and friends do a much better job of code as poetry or
injecting some of the devices of code fruitfully into natural language than you can do under the
constraints of actually making the thing run, typically.
while that's my emphasis, i see the underlying relation concerns the strange mix of computer and
natural language; computers are language machines.
> I can't tell you much about the sort of linguistics I want because I haven't
> done the research, and maybe it does already exist, but it wouldn't be very
> mathematical; it would however, talk about the interplay of different types
> of language, and how they inseminate each other; it would wonder about the
> relationship of machine code to these other languages, and, tying in with
> the phenomenological aspect, it would speculate on the relation of these
> linguistic structures to our experience of networked data.
Sounds like a good one but I haven't seen such a book. Perhaps Mez's list and Cramer's 'unstable
digest' are relevant here.
> my last work was featured in Inflect and my next work will be in the Iowa
> Review; both biggish projects, both collaborations . . I am deeply
> interested in the simultaneous writing of texts in english and programming
> languages (actionscript and lingo), and I like to speculate about what it
> means to turn our poetry into string variables; where does the poem stop and
> the code begin; whether such borders can be said to exist (I think not) and
> what that means for analysis of such work (and how this relates to its
Yeah. I'm interested in that also. One of the reasons I did Paris Connection was to try to
provide some writing *about* interesting code work from a kind of literary point of view that is
also informed about programming because you don't see much of that. most criticism relates work
to literary issues or art issues or philosophical issues but can't get at the roles of
programming in the work.
> consider what Cayley says, about how the programming is addressed to the
> computer, not to humans; I don't think he's entirely correct becuase while
> the computer does 'translate' the programming, the programming is for me not
> for the machine (unless you want to grant the machine consciousness). . .
> which in a kind-of way returns to Jim's musing on the nature of
> human-computer relationships; talk about language can't avoid talk about
> this relationship, and thus we seem to have an infinite loop, from language
> to human/computer relationships, to phenomenology and back to language . . .
> which is interesting to me
What does a poem let you do? What does a particular unit of code let you do? The latter question
is more interesting than 'what does a particular unit of code say?' usually, if it is
> I've gotta go - my cpu is infested with the undead & skeleton archers and if
> I don't attend to them the neighbourhood will really go down the tubes...
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