What does it mean to look at the code not just from the perspective of what it “does” computationally, but how it works as a semiotic system, a cultural object, as medium for communication? How does it organize itself, understand itself, think about its own representations, its own capacities and workarounds? Critical Code Studies is the practice of looking at the code that produces and imagines those digital realities, from a humanistic perspective. Or more formally:
Critical Code Studies applies hermeneutics to the interpretation of the extra-functional significance of computer source code, “extra” not in the sense of “outside of” but “growing from” the functionality.
Code offers an important arena of discourse with its own particular affordances and affinities, full of nuance and rhetoric, circulated, extended, and re-purposed, forming and shaping communities, built of programming paradigms and predilections, political divisions and institutional actors. In short, code offers quite a bit for the humanities to talk about. —HASTAC