Jussi Parikka – Reader, Winchester School of Art
Christian McCrea – Program Director for Games, RMIT University
Anna Munster – Associate Professor at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW
Code is the invisible force at the heart of contemporary media and
games, routinely obscured by the gadget fetish of breathless tech
marketing and scholarly focus on more visible social and technical
interfaces. With the recent material turn in media studies and the
refinement of new approaches including software studies and platform
politics, which emphasise interrogating the formal characteristics and
underlying technical architecture of contemporary media, the time has
come to bring code out into the open.
Code can be defined in two distinct but related ways: as an underlying
technological process, a set of rules and instructions governing, for
instance, the permutations of all those 0s and 1s obscured behind user
interfaces, but also as a cultural framework navigated and understood
socially and performatively, as is the case with legal, social and
behavioural codes. As an operative principle, code’s significance thus
extends far deeper than its current digital manifestation. For this
conference, we invite submissions of papers and creative works that
consider the role of code as a simultaneously material and semiotic
force that operates across the wider cultural, social and political
field, with particular emphasis on media, games and art.
The conference theme is also an opportunity to reflect on how, as
academics and creative practitioners, we often participate in but can
also challenge the disciplinary and institutional codes that can
arbitrarily separate these domains. CODE will be a transdisciplinary
event that brings media studies, media arts and games studies into
dialogue through individual papers, combined panels, master classes and
an included exhibition.
We welcome submissions related to any aspect of code in all its
diversity. Possible considerations might include, but are not limited
– Code and the in/visible: what are the technical, ideological and
academic aspects that work to obscure codes? And what might be the
strategies for making codes visible again? Topics: ‘screen essentialism’
(Kirschenbaum 2008); race and/as technology (Chun 2009); glitch and
error; programming activism; DIY coding; game exploits.
– Code and/as ideology: as something that both carries and obscures
meaning, what is code’s relationship to ideology? Topics: Black-boxing;
the fetish of visualisation (Chun 2011); ‘there is no software’ (Kittler
2005); code as social frame; encoding/decoding.
– Coding the disciplines: media and games studies. How do these closely
related disciplinary formations account for their existence? What
epistemological and methodological insights might they share or
contribute to one another, perhaps through emergent fields like software
studies and platform politics? Or should they remain distinct?
– The deeper history of code: as a principle of information exchange,
code’s centrality in media and communications technologies goes beyond
the digital. What is the role of code in the deeper history of media,
and what are the media archaeological resonances or links between ‘old’
and ‘new’ forms of code? Can their emergence often be traced back to the
military-industrial complex? Topics: Prehistory of code; Morse code and
semaphore; encryption and cryptography; cybernetics and early computing;
pre- and non-digital games.
– Code and the public/private: What are the historical, legislative,
technological and cultural settings for the emergence of ‘public
privacy’, in which public signifying systems are vehicles for highly
personal messages? Topics: public, private and intimate spheres;
epistolary networks; social media; reality programming; celebrity;
geolocating identity, meaning and destination.
– ‘Code and other laws of media’: the continuities and discontinuities
of different codes. Just as legal codes embedded in technical protocols
like digital rights management may disastrously overextend copyright
protections (Lessig 1999), how else do different codes meet, overlap,
extend and come into conflict with one another? Topics: Copyright and
intellectual property; distribution; technical, legal, social and
– Security codes: Though code often serves to secure and obscure
authority, it remains vulnerable to hacking, raising the spectre of a
whole new form of risk society operating at the level of code and
through its breaches and accidents – how does this play out across
networked information, communication and entertainment environments?
Topics: phone hacking; Wikileaks; Anonymous and software-based protest;
gaming hacks and cracks; data theft.
– Code and agency: Interactive media, games, art and cultural practice
can all deal with the relationship between the interacting participant
and the coded system. What aesthetics and politics are at work when the
participant’s presumed agency and the coded constraints are in tension?
Topics: aesthetics of code-based media; interface; participant
experience; emergence/counter-play; proceduralism and performativity.
– Bodies in code: how do information and code, not only interfaces and
devices, reconfigure the social, political and corporeal body, and vice
versa? How might we conceptualise the materiality and ontology of code
in relation to phenomenologies of embodiment and new materialism?
Topics: post-humanism (Hayles 1999); new and vital materialism (Bennett
2010); genetics and other codes for the body; disembodiment and
– Failures of code: Much of code’s power lies in its invisibility, a
transparency that allows it to be embedded as the ‘common sense’ of
everyday life, but what happens when code fails, socially culturally,
politically or technologically, or is exploited? Topics: rules and
disobedience; comedy; subversion; disruption; revolution.
:: For further discussion, please view the conference website:
Code operates, as if by stealth, beneath the materiality of networked
media performances, software art, games, mobile apps, locative and
social media. But code also presents artists, performers and creative
practitioners with opportunities to construct innovative hybrid media
forms that can extend our understanding of contemporary art practice.
From video installations in the 1960s, through to sophisticated
interactive media and augmented reality applications, artists have
arguably been at the forefront of innovation, adopting the language of
the computer to forge new creative frontiers. We invite contributions
that examine the creative potential of code, including but not limited
to, the implications of code for contemporary art/ists, code as art
and/or performance, code as avant-garde, virus and anti-art.
The CODE conference will include a thematic exhibition. We are seeking
submissions of screen-based works, pervasive games, and locative media
projects that respond to the conference themes. Projected and
performance works will also be considered.
– Individual 20 minute paper presentations: 300 word abstract.
– Panel submissions: panel submission should include three/four
individual abstracts of 300 words, a panel title, and a 200 words
rationale for the panel as a whole.
– Artists should submit a 250 word outline of the proposed creative
work including links to supporting documentation (10 stills or up to 3
minutes of video).
All submissions are due 31 May 2012 and should be emailed to
Please include your name, affiliation, contact details, and a brief
A special journal issue or edited collection on the conference theme is
– Conference website: http://code2012.wikidot.com (includes venue and
registration information, thematic discussion, reading list, etc.)
– Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Esther Milne
Deputy Head, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Convenor, BA Honours Program
Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
Swinburne University of Technology
Letters, Postcards, Email: Technologies of Presence (Routledge 2010):