I have read “There Is No Software” three times and cannot precisely describe what Kittler means. From what I gather, Kittler believes that writing no longer exists in a physical form (for the most part). The processes and sub-processes run by a computer has boiled writing down to a chain of user interfaces and unseen commands. Eventually, the software will become detached from the user as the interfaces hide more and more processes.
“We do not write anymore” (145). Programs now do the bulk of writing. Through GUIs, we have lost the physical representation of what is considered writing. Each update further (in either hardware or software) removes the writer from writing.
“Programming languages have eroded the monopoly of ordinary language and grown into a new hierarchy of their own” (148). Programming languages do no operate like “ordinary language;” they have the ability to be completely different and yet still interact. Even file names, as Kittler discusses, exists as an in-between entity that merges the needs of the mechanical system and the “advertising strategies of software manufacturers” (149).
“The growth rate of possible interconnections between these elements, that is, of the computing power as such, has proven to have as its upper bound a square root function” (154). Kittler believes that computing hardware will eventually reach an apex. The problems that are presented to computers continue to grow while the hardware steadily reaches an asymptote of diminishing returns.
I actually disagree with Kittler on the whole upper bound of hardware. This article was written in the early nineties, but you would think at that point people would believe that the sky was the limit as hardware got smaller and smaller. I am uncertain as to what my actually question is here. Perhaps I would like to know why Kittler would tell us that software is everything, but there is no software and hardware is great, but it won’t be enough.
Does the definition Kittler applies to writing actually work for us? Kittler seems to posit writing as a purely mechanical operation, but most English majors would tend not to agree. Eventually, machines will be able to write completely new works of fiction (the technology is almost there), but for now, should we not separate the creative and mechanical in order to make strides for each?
One Big Thing
Does the advent of software and hardware that writes (in Kittler’s definition) change how we define writing? I would say that it does, but not in the way I believe Kittler purports.