Ordering & Encoding Characters & Computation
By Nick Montfort
Tracing the way letters and other characters have been digitally represented, so that they become susceptible to automatic computation, I examine Western writing and the era of general-purpose electronic computing that began in the 1940s. The story involves writing systems and alphabets, the materiality of text and computation, and of course the prominence and dominance of a particular global “lingua franca.” I will then extend my discussion to include programming languages which, with the exception of the first, numeric machine languages, have very often been based on English. Finally, I'll describe one attempt to address the oversized footprint of English in computing: a literary translation project, Renderings, which attempts to raise awareness of global creative work by bring literary systems in different languages to the attention of my language community.
About the author
Nick Montfort develops computational art and poetry, often collaboratively. He is on the faculty at MIT in CMS/Writing and is the principal of the naming firm Nomnym. Montfort wrote the books of poems #! and Riddle & Bind, co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story, and developed more than forty digital projects including the collaborations The Deletionist and Sea and Spar Between. The MIT Press has published four of his collaborative and individual books: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, and 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, with Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities coming soon.