New Criticals

The code is only named, and therefore technically understood, through the blog: “definitely necessary to break out the Emacs and modify that Perl script.” Its appearance on-screen is not legible—it is depicted as blurry lines of indistinguishable characters. The programming characters are lighter in color than the blog font; viewers are permitted to not know, or even to not see, this operation. In contrast, the blog text as seen on-screen is perfectly legible, and the audience can read along with the voiceover. The scene is fraught with the anxiety of distance between user and code. This anxiety is represented textually through multiple representations of reading, writing, and narrative. The counterpoint to these multiple depictions of reading and writing is one that epitomizes the difficulty in narrativizing code: in this section of The Social Network the blog functions as the narrative frame for that which resists narrative—code. This happens visually (the viewer can read the blog but not the code script) and verbally (the viewers do not necessarily know what “Emacs” or “Perl” refer to, but they can follow the context). And yet, even with such an accessible cinematic frame, this representation does not technically render the code readable or understandable; it merely conflates the difference between seeing and reading, or between viewing and understanding. The production of code in the cultural imaginary as yet another mode of reading and writing is one way in which the executibility of code as machinic discourse is effaced. In the scenes of programming described above, the performance of the programmer is one of sovereignty: the programmer rewrites the world.