Computing plays an important role in some types of media, such as video games, digital art, and electronic literature. It seems evident that an understanding of programming and computing systems may help us learn more about these productions and their role in culture. But few have focused on the levels of code and platform. Adding these neglected levels to digital media studies can help to advance the field, offering insights that would not be found by focusing on the levels of experience and interface by themselves. The recent project of Critical Code Studies and two book series just started by The MIT Press, Software Studies and Platform Studies, represent a new willingness to consider digital media at these levels. With reference to mass-market and more esoteric systems and works, ranging from Atari 2600 and arcade games to Talan Memmott’s Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)], this talk describes how looking at the code and platform levels can enhance our comparative media studies of computational works.
Nick Montfort is associate professor of digital media at MIT and has been part of dozens of academic, editorial, and literary collaborations.