Speaking Code


Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression
Text Geoff Cox / Code Alex McLean / Foreword Franco “Bifo” Berardi.
Published by MIT Press, Autumn 2012.


“Speaking Code beautifully folds speech and language, politics, art, and labor into an inspiring analysis. In addition to their clarity in style, Geoff Cox and Alex McLean are not afraid to get their hands dirty with references to the ugly sides of software and unsanitized code, which are too often hidden under the polished covers of contemporary design of digital culture.” – Jussi Parikka, author of Digital Contagions, Insect Media, and What Is Media Archaeology?; Reader in Media & Design at Winchester School of Art, UK

“Speaking Code incisively analyzes the forms, expression and action of computer code. In contrast to much loose and diffuse discussion of software, Speaking Code directly engages with code as utterance. Its careful exploration of code-making and code use opens onto much wider issues of power, agency and value. Theoretically nuanced and technically informed, in the precision with which it treats its materials this book really made me sit up and take notice of code.” – Adrian Mackenzie, Sociology, Lancaster University, UK


Mark C. Marino, review of Speaking Code in Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, June 2015, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asi.23362/abstract

Stevphen Shukaitis, “Speaking Code to Power”, in Rhizones: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, Issue 26, 2014, http://www.rhizomes.net/issue26/shukaitis/index.html

Alan F. Blackwell, “Critical Codes: from forkbomb to brainfuck”, in Computational Culture: a journal of software studies, 16 November 2013, http://computationalculture.net/article/critical-codes-%E2%80%93-from-forkbomb-to-brainfuck

Nathan Carlson, Computing Reviews, ACM, Nov 12, 2013.

(Brief) Review in Neural magazine, Américas! Issue #45, Summer 2013, http://neural.it/2013/10/geoff-cox-alex-mclean-franco-bifo-berardi-speaking-code-coding-as-aesthetic-and-political-expression/

Kevin Brock, Review of Speaking Code, in Itineration: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Rhetoric, Media, and Culture (2013). Web. 20 May 2013, http://itineration.org/book_reviews/brock/index.html

(Skeptical) Review by Reuben Thomas, June 2013, http://sc3d.tumblr.com/post/52584384182/speaking-code-by-geoff-cox-and-alex-mclean

(Angry) Review by Mark Bernstein, April 2013, http://www.markbernstein.org/BooksSpring2012/SpeakingCodecodingasaesthe.html


Can Computer Code Be Used For Artistic And Political Expression?
Interview by Michelle Lhooq, for The Creators Project, November 19, 2012.


Aesthetics seminar, Geoff Cox (speaking) and Alex McLean (coding, remotely), Aarhus University.
14.15, 13 March 2014, Kasernen, Aarhus University.

Launch event at transmediale festival.
14.00, 01 February 2013, Central Foyer, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

Performance lecture, Geoff Cox and Alex McLean.
14:00, 27 July 2012, at Arnolfini, Bristol, as part of Live Notation Unit, itself part of a AHRC Live Notation Research Project.

Pre-launch, Geoff Cox in conversation with Constant (represented by Nicolas Malevé, Michael Murtaugh, and Femke Snelting), Alex McLean (code), Franco Berardi (video), Joasia Krysa (host).
11:00, 16 September 2012, at dOCUMENTA(13), Ständehaus, Kassel, as part of Paper Mornings, book presentations at dOCUMENTA(13).

Franco Bifo Berardi reading one of the program scripts from the book that attempts to send a greeting to every server on the Internet, http://vimeo.com/48294959. (Note: Ignore the Neidich description as it is wrong.)
Making reference to Speaking Code, Daniel Temkin has written the essay “Brainfuck” for New Media Caucus, Spring 2013, v.00 n.01; available at http://median.newmediacaucus.org/tracing-newmediafeminisms/brainfuck/.

Operating System

We created a Linux distribution for the book launch of Speaking Code at dOCUMENTA (13), September 2012. The distribution includes a script which when run, automates the creation and execution of code examples from the book, before live coding some music which includes live input from your computer’s microphone.

You can download this distribution as a DVD image. It is a “live” distribution, which means you can run it from a DVD without installing it on your system. It is a “.iso” file, so make sure when you burn it to a DVD that you do so as a DVD image. This requires a different procedure to creating a DVD which contains files.

Once you have created the DVD, restart your machine and instruct your computer to boot from it. On PCs, look for instructions on reboot, such as holding down the F12 key. On Macs, hold down the ‘c’ key.

Alternatively, you may try booting the .iso file without restarting your current operating system using virtual machine software such as the free/open source software virtualbox.

Once you have booted the machine, log in as ‘speakingcode’ with the password ‘speakingcode’ if prompted, and then click on the ‘runme’ script on the desktop.

Please do not use your keyboard or mouse while the script is running, otherwise the script will go awry.

Our changes to the Linux Mint distribution are shared here under the terms of the GNU Public License, version 3.0 or later.

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