Abstract - The Information Society 21(3)

Embedded Technical Expression: Code and the Leveraging of Functionality

Matt Ratto

In this paper, I argue that a key problem for understanding the social ramifications of software is an implicit separation of software programs into two separate elements: expressive aspects which are seen as socially driven and affectual, and functional aspects understood as scientific and rational. In order to overcome this binary, I develop an alternative framework that examines the ways software expresses best practices, correct behaviors, and social organization. A key element of this framework is an understanding of software programs as simultaneously rhetorical and tangible objects. Given that western society is dependent on socio-technical systems in which software plays a crucial role, understanding the complex ways software expresses normative tasks, practices, and social orders is increasingly important.

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