Taking its point of departure in a series of art works produced from the mid 1990s to today, this paper will argue that tool discourse provides an productive way to talk about contemporary software culture. Compared to the predominant notion of media, the notion of the tool offers a more specific conceptualisation of the use of computer technology. It is concerned with human engagement with an environment. The software tools we use in both everyday situations and for professional purposes constitute interfaces to the environment of software culture. As such they activate certain intelligences and sensibilities that influence how we as users perceive and act towards software cultural matters.
Most mainstream software tools tend to encourage a rational, utilitarian and techno-positivistic forms of interaction with software culture but through the examples of so-called artistic software tools, which includes applications such a web browser and text editors as well as complete operating systems, the paper demonstrates that art represents an apt form to develop otherwise critical intelligences and sensibilities and furthermore a critical software environmental consciousness. Essentially, the paper suggests that the development of conceptual, cultural languages to think and talk about software is as important as the technological development. It emphasises the importance of continually expanding such languages in response to the technological expansions and propose a closer exchange between these two levels of contemporary software culture from the point of view of a critical engagement that is both resistant and inventive in terms of software politics. In the context of artistic software tools, the paper suggests that this exchange can be conceived as a kind of science fiction, a vision of a possible future, about the emergence of a new type of insubordinate, reflective and inventive software tool users.
- Jacob Lillemose, Artnode and University of Copenhagen, Denmark