UCL Anthropology


Conversations on the Limits of Language in Computational Cultures

Organized by Gui Heurich (UCL) and Luis Felipe R. Murillo (University of Notre Dame). Funded by The Leverhulme Trust, the University of Notre Dame, and UCL’s Centre for Digital Anthropology.

Languages make and remake, represent and organize, enact but also confuse relationships that computer systems and their designers entertain with social worlds. Yet, programming languages are mostly understood and practiced in terms of their utilitarian, formal and, ultimately, deterministic aspects within well-defined and narrow scopes to solve problems computationally. In this book, professional programmers, artists, anthropologists, and media scholars who inhabit quite distinct worlds analyze the limits of language in computational cultures within and beyond the main centers for computing. As code emerges out of a social and machinic context, shaped and constrained by cultural and computational orders, we reflect on the limits of what a programming language can be and what that might mean for future studies of technology in the humanities and the sciences.

Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal

Currently an Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, Ranjodh also makes video games and other digital projects as part of his exploration of the many facets of computational media.

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Jon Corbett

Jon is a métis computational media artist and professional computer programmer who infuses his knowledge of programming with his Indigenous heritage and beadwork practice.

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Chris Seaton

Chris is a Senior Staff Engineer at Shopify, where he works on TruffleRuby - a highly optimized Ruby compiler. He also maintains the Ruby bibliography, which is a list of academic writings on the Ruby programming language.

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Daniel Temkin

Daniel makes photography, programming languages, net art, and paintings examining the clash between systemic logic and human irrationality. His award-winning blog esoteric.codes documents the history of programming languages as an art form.

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Sareeta Amrute

Sareeta is an anthropologist exploring data, race, caste, and capitalism in global South Asia, Europe, and the United States. As an Affiliate Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, she currently teaches about labor and race in tech worlds and about science and technology in South Asia.

Hannah Knox

Hannah is Professor of Anthropology at University College London. She currently studies the politics of energy and climate change in a project that follows the pursuit of carbon reduction strategies by a network of scientists, activists and local authority officers in Manchester, UK.

Ron Eglash

Ron is a Professor at the University of Michigan's School of Information. He explores the histories and futures of Information Technology as well as the multiple relationships between ethnomathematics, programming, cybernetics, and and society.

Chris Ball

Chris is a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist, currently Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame. His research has explored topics such as discourse and interaction, cultural symbolism, and the politics of communication, always focusing on the role of communication in sociocultural context.

Gui Heurich & Luis Felipe R. Murillo

Gui is conducting a long-term fieldwork with computer programmers as part of his Leverhulme Trust.

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