Seminar 10 – Software

Software Takes Command

Lev Manovich is an author and university professor, his research and teaching focuses on subjects surrounding software studies and digital technologies.

“Software has become our interface to the world, to others, to our memory and our imagination – a universal language through which the world speaks, and a universal engine on which the world runs.”

His book, Software Takes Command, is his most recent – having been published in 2013. In it, he discussed a number of key issues relating to epistemology, how we interact with software, big data gathering and understand, the computer meta-medium and more. As he states in his conclusion, he isn’t trying to answer questions, as his book is aimed more at theoreticians and practitioners, rather than students, but rather he wants to make others ask more questions in return and aims to start a kind of dialogue between others who may have different understandings than him.

Software Politics

As well as discussing the reading for this week and the works and ideas of Manovich, we also discussed some of the political systems that come with software developments and companies. As a perfect example, we looked at the relationship between Bill Gates, China and Microsoft – which is quite a complicated relationship! Gates tried and failed to access the common market in China with his Microsoft products for 20 years, since the Chinese government used Linux and encouraged its citizens to invent and create software rather than buy it – since Microsoft products where very expensive at the time, nobody was buying them.

Eventually, the Chinese government demanded that Microsoft give them open access to their coding system in order to understand how their software worked and what they could do with it, as well as being able to edit it to suit their needs and meet their censorship requirements. Eventually a deal was struck between Bill Clinton – the US president at the time, Gates and the Chinese so that Microsoft could access the open market in China and sell their products.

As recently as last year, Microsoft continues to create specific software systems or edit existing systems – including Windows 10 to meet the demands of the Chinese. It’s understandable that Microsoft are wary of people accessing the code that makes their systems run – at the end of the day, if somebody can replicate what they do, they can cut out the middle man and do it themselves, but at the same time, why should we pay so much money for something, and not actually have full access to it and how it works? It’s a fine line that needs to be understood more clearly and challenged by new generations in order to ensure people can still invent and create 100 years from now – preferably without being sued or prosecuted.

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