Sandra Nelson (University of Pittsburgh)
Stemming from the assumption that a computer program’s entire meaning is its function, the coding language used to compose it typically regarded as axiomatic and arhetorical. This approach is potentially problematic because it fails to address the ideological elements that are implicitly conveyed and reproduced through these languages. In this paper, I identify the linguistic elements of coding languages and analyze them through the concept of phallogocentrism in order to argue that through both their social reception and their structure they reproduce Western patriarchal ideas. Then, drawing on feminist and queer theory, I propose various structural, formal, pedagogical, and hermeneutical methods of disrupting this process. By deconstructing the patriarchal aspects of code, I present one method for critiquing and expanding the borders that dictate access to creating, controlling, and communicating with digital technology and gesture toward the possibility of redistributing the power aligned with these abilities.
Sandra Nelson is a Ph.D. student and first year composition instructor in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh. I specialize in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, and my research concentrates particularly on the intersection of communications rhetoric, software studies, and queer theory. My current project concerns the interplay between coding languages, interfaces, and digital rhetoric and how it facilitates the expression of and communication between intersectional queer identities in digital spaces.