Theory, Culture and Society 28 (6):113-141 (2011)

Lucas Introna
Lancaster University
This paper is about the phenomenon of encoding, more specifically about the encoded extension of agency. The question of code most often emerges from contemporary concerns about the way digital encoding is seen to be transforming our lives in fundamental ways, yet seems to operate ‘under the surface’ as it were. In this essay I suggest that the performative outcomes of digital encoding are best understood within a more general horizon of the phenomenon of encoding – that is to say as norm- or rule-governed material enactments accepted as the necessary conditions for becoming. Encoded material enactments translate/extend agency, but never exactly. I argue that such encoded extensions are insecure, come at a cost and are performative. To illustrate this I present a brief discussion of some specific historical transitions in the encoding of human agency: from speech to writing, to mechanical writing, and finally to electronic writing. In each of these translations I aim to show that agency is translated/extended in ways that have many unexpected performative outcomes. Specifically, through a discussion of the digital encoding of writing, as reuse, I want to suggest the proposition that all agency is always borrowed – i.e. it is never originally human. As encoded beings we are never authors, we are rather more or less skilful reusers. To extend agency we have to submit to the demands of encoding and kidnap that encoding simultaneously – enabling constraints in Butler’s language. Our originality, if there is any, is in our skill at kidnapping the code and turning it into an extension of our agency, that is to say, our skill at resignification – to be original we need to be skilful ‘parasites’, as suggested by Serres.
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DOI 10.1177/0263276411418131
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References found in this work BETA

Being and Time.Ronald W. Hepburn - 1964 - Philosophical Quarterly 14 (56):276.
Poetry, Language, Thought.Martin Heidegger - 1971 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 31 (1):117-123.
Of Grammatology.Jacques Derrida - 1982 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 15 (1):66-70.
The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays.Martin Heidegger & William Lovitt - 1981 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 12 (3):186-188.
Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word.Walter J. Ong - 1983 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 16 (4):270-271.

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Citations of this work BETA

Codes and Codings in Crisis.Adrian Mackenzie & Theo Vurdubakis - 2011 - Theory, Culture and Society 28 (6):3-23.

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