This was 13 years, 10 months, 3 days ago

Hot damn! So earlier, full of Foucault and notions of systems of discourse and knowledge-power and whatnot, I was thinking about the structure of the modern computer system, and its structure of power and permissions --- of the computer's discursivity, so to speak.

I had thought of this sometime last semester, but the thought came back: *nix, Windows, and Linux systems all operate on a world/group/user organization of classification, with specific permissions of read/write/execute attributed to each classification level. Is it possible to move beyond this system of permissions and roles, where at the atomic level of things, each 'process' is hierarchized and restricted through a hegemonic power into roles of accessibility (read), ability (write), and power (execute)?

As it stands, operating systems seem to be run in a feudal system, in which processes have child processes, and the hierarchy of processes is a progenitory one more akin to a lord-vassal relationship, not of a meritocratic one. Is it possible to have a 'capitalist' operating society, in which Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' guides the usage of computing resources? What about a socialist operating system in which all processes have equal power, abilities?

I'm reminded of the Setun Conspiracy, which apparently was a Soviet attempt at creating computing systems operating on ternary logic rather than binary logic (-1, 0, 1 rather than 0, 1). This is different, though, because systems running on binary logic can emulate ternary logic, albeit with a performance hit -- much like how a Turing machine can simulate another Turing machine. That is, the difference in effect achieved by creating a ternary logic computer from a binary logic computer is probably on the level of the individual atomic calculation than on the level of processes, programs, or operating systems.

Granted, simulatability (that a TM can simulate another TM) is not an argument for a lack of difference on an emergent scale. For example, a Lisp compiler can be written in C, and those are two completely different languages operating with completely different efficiencies, abilities, etc. What I'm saying is that the modus operandi behind the Soviet Union's researching of these ternary logic computers probably has to do with the same details of their implementation that makes them uninteresting in my view: that their divergence from binary logic is on a mostly elementary scale, and therefore suitable only for the ideology of the Soviet Union vs. the US at the time, of a computer ideologically and fundamentally based on an alternate (and arguably better) system.

Going back to my original question: what are the systems of computers, and how are they a reflection of political/judicial systems? Is there a discourse concerning the architectural design of computers?


Lo and behold, someone just wrote an essay about this, called Computer Juridisms, by Cornelia Visman and Markus Krajewski. I haven't read it yet, but plan to do so as soon as time entails.

The essay itself was published in Gray Room, which one of my art history professors co-founded. I just started browsing the issues, and it's great to see so much serious and thoughtful discussion on the usually neglected realm of ""low culture"" (that's some dangerous terminology, so I used extra quotation marks): technology, games, etc. Alexander Galloway has an essay titled Starcraft, or Balance, and McKenzie Wark, who wrote Gamer Theory (which I'm reading now) has an essay that seems like an elaboration of his book, called Digital Allegories (on The Sims)..