1 Jun 2024 08:45 - 17:00 SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP


An event organised by Cambridge Digital Humanities



Critiquing Code Alignment: Tracing “Forward Alignment” and “Backward Alignment” in Critical Code Studies, David M. Berry (Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex)

Access the full programme here


‘Hello World!’ is how all computer programmers begin, and it’s how Mark C. Marino opens his manifesto for critical code studies. This elementary exercise in coding, accompanied by the instruction PRINT, demonstrates that “code exists not for machines but for humans who need to communicate with the machine and with other humans.” The code we write enables us to interface with the machine, sitting somewhere between human language and the calculations performed by the computer.

Here, we take up ‘conversation’ as a means of interrogating the performative, cultural, and functional nature of code. The discipline of critical code studies extrapolates outward from close readings of chunks of computer code to capture the broader phenomena at work behind them: the users, communities, engineers, teachers, critics, routers, servers, compilers, computers, chargers, and utility networks. The framework of the conversation places code into continuous mutual negotiation with these resources; compiling is only the beginning of the process.

However, critical code studies is frustrated by the increased preponderance of deep neural networks, which abstract code processes further from what is intelligible through language; human critique and understanding hinges on our ability to read and speak back to code. How do these conversations falter when language is obstructed, and how can we develop methodologies to keep understanding obfuscated code?

This one-day conference on the dynamic field of critical code studies will expand on these questions and on the conversations begun by the Cultural Politics of Code reading group at Cambridge Digital Humanities. The keynote will be delivered by David Berry, Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex.


This conference will be held in person in the Alison Richard Building on the Sidgwick Site at the University of Cambridge. Please find accessibility information here.

Participants should make their dietary and access requirements known on the e-sales form, accessible via the CDH registration page. Should you wish to discuss any specifics, please get in touch via CodeAsConversation@cdh.cam.ac.uk. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk