10 concepts of computation (arranged in order of increasing outrageousness)

November, 2004

The ideational threads that weave their way through this list summarize the obsessions that motivated my work during the five previous years. There is a trajectory here: from a concern for the abstract, theoretical underpinnings of computer technology, to the intertwining of technical and cultural logics in the lives and politics of the people who create and use computers.

instantiation of systematicity
the property of software that gives us instead of discrete unique objects as products, rather a series of examples of possible outcomes.
possibility within constraint
software provides a metaphor for the opening out of constrained systems by creative strategies of habitation; if it is possible for a fixed algorithmic structure to produce infinite variations of output, it may be possible for us to navigate the locus of our social constraint by a similar grace of gesture.
gesture of the system
the characteristic expressive movement and trace produced by a given apparatus: the last nail in the coffin of the dead author.
a reciprocity of metaphorics
the reversibility of metaphors applied to and derived from computation–e.g. the mind is a machine, the machine has a mind. this reversibility is rooted in Turings first intellectual gesture creating the possibility of computation from the machine reduction of the human computer.
empathetic reception
the extension of feeling from bodily existence into objects resulting in a somatic apprehension of its systematicity.
structurality of computation
the formal reliance of computation as a method and as a metaphor on a particular figure of absence and traversal that has its roots in the Turing Machine and is homologous to the linguistic sign.
the work of the empty square
Gilles Deleuze writes in The Logic of Sense that, “there is no structure without the empty square, which makes everything function.” This particular figure of absence, the “container object,” underwrites a substitutional strategy wherein one instance of its content is replaced by another within a serial chain . The idea of containment is transformed into a vehicle for traversal; emptiness is made to work as a machine. This is the structure of thought and of computation.
the impossibility of containment
The undecidability of containment applies to any substitutional system, where each element is contained within a structure, and any element may be replaced. Every term is a place holder–an emptiness to be filled–as much as an object in a place. The expectation of completion sets in motion a serial cascade of attempted closures by rule of function, as each term slips from contained to container.
the melancholy of turing's invention
the conceptualization of computation, relies on a concept of emptiness that can be serially filled and evacuated. this lack has its ultimate reference in the biographical loss by Turing of his dear friend Christopher Marcom. the sad event inaugurates an emptiness which moved Turing to cruising and from there to computation.
sexing the machine
the computer is a locus of sexual traffic, transgression, and consumption. the computer is queer; it actively resists the heteronormative by courting promiscuity, proliferation, and perversion. a complex syllogistic train pulls from the genealogical head of Turing; his melancholy youth and infamous tragedy leave an indelible stain on the machine he birthed.