Many digital humanities projects require not only a plan to develop software, but a complex set of software protocols to represent culture. Magic will demonstrate the innovations present in cultural code and provide an in-depth look at the practitioners engaged in their solutions. The interface will include media such as video documentaries, audio interviews, and text analysis, while also including interactive techniques to demonstrate how code represents culture and vise versa.

Concept design for MagicConcept design for Magic. Code excerpts in the right column are annotated by cultural material in the left column. Going the other direction, cultural material is annotated by code.

A Magic reader will see two columns: in the right column are code excerpts; in the left column are cultural materials. Hovering your mouse over specific pieces of the code will reveal media objects describing and annotating the code. The media objects might be textual descriptions, interviews with the creators and users of the software describing its significance, writing about related themes, or a snippet of the front-end project it operates on. Likewise, interacting with the cultural material in the left column will reveal code that produces or engages the material. Using the split-screen, one side examines the “who” and “why” of culturally-sensitive software, the other discovers the “what” and “how”.

Magic explores the relationship between software and culture while also highlighting humanities projects that have made impacts on culture. The content of Magic will be dictated by the projects it features, and we are in the process of discovering projects to include. A part of Magic that may be of particular interest to Critical Code Studies is that the actual executable software created by running a piece of code is weighted equally with all other media that annotate the code. Rather than focusing on code as a means to an executable end, the executable is merely one interpretation of a text document written in a coded language.

(This post originally published at the Critical Code Studies Working Group, February 2, 2010.)