V: Does Code Persuade?

Interview: Part 5 of 6

DE: Related to that, I wanted to ask you—If we're recognizing things as speech, and we're trying to figure out what can be recognized as speech, I wondered if you think code is persuasive. I'm thinking about scholars of rhetoric. And also if you think material technologies are persuasive.

BH: What do you mean by "persuasive"?

DE: "Persuasive" is open to interpretation depending on which scholar you ask. The ways that they are ideological, I guess, is another way to say it. Or the ways that they do work on us. You've talked about that gesture, hunched over, in a way that could be seen as persuasive, in a way that could be seen as encouraging certain kinds of action from people. So I wonder about that.

BH: Structuring, or—If code is persuasive itself. I mean, code is a fascinating thing. I mean, you think about it. You think about some Facebook engineer who makes a small change to the source code of Facebook. And then suddenly that touches the lives of several billion people around the world. There's a speed and an efficacy to that particular writing. The distance between writing something, or that inscription, and then a material effect on society, is very close. It's very fast. And I think it is a matter of tempo. I would probably argue that coding is not a fundamentally different form of writing in anything other than its speed. Dissemination works in this way that is now accelerated to be qualitatively different.

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