Tracing Concepts: In, Out and Through Computing

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The arrival of the computer has produced a new knowledge field that was especially hungry for, and prolific in, concepts. Since computing is embedding itself ever deeper in the fabric of reality through a pervasive network of connected, communicating and sensing objects, it is worthwhile to trace and characterize the concepts going in, out and through computing from the fields of architecture and philosophy. This is exactly what the Tracing Concepts project deals with. The artificial environment of the computer is a place where particularly abstract concepts find fertile ground. Since “software is perhaps the ultimate heterogeneous technology[, i]t exists simultaneously as an idea, language, technology, and practice” (Nathan Ensmenger). In a very real way, a concept is literally put to work in a programming language, they become operative, mechanical cogs in the machinery of the Universal Machine.

While degrees, titles, institutes and schools constitute disciplinary boundaries and define professions, the ideas and concepts that circulate in a discipline are much more difficult, if not impossible, to cage. Ideas are borrowed and appropriated from one field to another. When adopted in new contexts concepts are mutated, bastardized and are re-utilized and, more often than not, depoliticized.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number28
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 15.07.2011