My goodness gracious this was dense. On page 25, Mcpherson even says, “And what in the world does this have to do with those engineers laboring away at Bell Labs…?” Being technologically challenged as I am, I heartily agreed with this. But thankfully, Mcpherson chooses to explain some of the technical stuff to us, so hopefully I have some kind of grasp of what she is trying to say. As coding and programming was emerging and creating its own set of rules, social rules were being changed radically, if not being destroyed entirely.
They both have rules though. The coding/programming rules are written while the social rules are unspoken (unwritten.)
This reminds me of the point in The Bug where Roberta is learning code. It is always a good literary strategy that if you have to give exposition, to use a character that is on a level footing with your audience in order to avoid “on the nose” dialogue as it were. For example, if we had gotten the information through Ethan, we would wonder, “he knows all of this, why is he repeating it?” The information would have no other purpose but to inform us and we would feel cheated. In the case of Roberta, she is learning as we are learning, so the exposition works. It has a purpose and we do not feel cheated by it. I know that Roberta is not completely ignorant of computers at this point nor is all of the audience as technologically challenged as I am, but in the grand scheme of things of things it works. Since McPherson’s piece is non fiction, it does not have to use this. She can the give us the information to us any way she wants, within a reasonable extent, and it will be fine. She does tell us the rules though and they are vitally important. Without these, the older generation of programmers could not do anything. With the advent of Ethan’s users, not everyone knows the rules.
That does not mean we shouldn’t follow them. If we do not, our computers revolt and we take them to the people that do know the rules to be fixed. In this way, it has become more like the social rules system in its unwritten quality. In the social rules system, especially in minor circumstances, there are no “programmers” we take ourselves to to get fixed. In some situations, like particularly jarring crimes, the court system can stand in for the “programmers.” I won’t dwell on this though because it reminds me of too many dystopias and mind control.