Computation and the Everyday

Have recently become interested in the question of the ‘everyday’. Very developed body of literature on this topic, including authors such as Lefebvre, Blanchot, de Certeau, Perec, Sheringham, Highmore, etc. Lefebvre describes the everyday as a level of social being – one in which we spend a great deal of time and yet have inadequate means of conceptualising and acknowledging. Very generally, it describes a realm of habitual practice, representing the formless space of the ‘lived’ – of all that falls outside the extraordinary and significant sphere of memorable and historical events. The everyday is opaque. It disappears both when disregarded and when too scrupulously attended to. Most particularly, it resists critical apprehension. It is inimicable to all efforts to gain clear perspective – to perceive and render in clearly articulated analytical terms.

Now in the most obvious sense computation would seem opposed to the everyday, representing instead a space of abstraction and distance from the terrain of lived experience. It is associated with precisely those forces that marginalise the everyday, that represent it as a bracketed special problem. Yet in other ways there are dimensions of similarity. Computation is human intellectual labour passed into the machinic. Computation defines a space of unconscious informational process. So it shares this same sense of resistance to critical apprehension. Yet the everyday is conceived as a protean space – a space of repetition that can never adequately repeat, that is constantly transforming cultural forms through the texture of lived practice. In contrast, computational processes appear utterly dominated by regimes of abstraction. They are the material fulfillment of abstraction, offering no potential for granular noise or resistance.

Yet perhaps they provide a means of discovering the everyday. Not as an entirely reassuring space of human intransigent imperfection and malleability, but as a paradoxical space of iteration. Computation enables a meditation on the nature of iterative process – and of the human investment in the iterative, which is never simply about manifesting the autonomous power of the human, that passes beyond the human precisely through the impossibility of adequate comprehension. This is relevant to describing the relationship between programming and software execution. Instead of appearing exclusively as a confident field of demonstration and proof, the space of execution opens up lacunae within the regime of abstraction – drawing it away from self-consciousness towards fields of space-time that exceed the human precisely.

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