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My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts [Paperback]

N Katherine Hayles

Price: 15.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

18 Oct 2005
We live in a world, according to N Katherine Hayles, where new languages are constantly emerging, proliferating, and fading into obsolescence. These are languages of our own making: the programming languages written in code for the intelligent machines we call computers. Hayles' latest exploration provides an exciting new way of understanding the relations between code and language and considers how their interactions have affected creative, technological, and artistic practices. "My Mother Was a Computer" explores how the impact of code on everyday life has become comparable to that of speech and writing: as language and code have grown more entangled, the lines that once separated humans from machines, analog from digital, and old technologies from new ones have become blurred. "My Mother Was a Computer" gives us the tools necessary to make sense of these complex relationships. Hayles argues that we live in an age of intermediation that challenges our ideas about language, subjectivity, literary objects, and textuality. This process of intermediation takes place where digital media interact with cultural practices associated with older media, and here Hayles sharply portrays such interactions: how code differs from speech; how electronic text differs from print; the effects of digital media on the idea of the self; the effects of digitality on printed books; our conceptions of computers as living beings; the possibility that human consciousness itself might be computational; and the subjective cosmology wherein humans see the universe through the lens of their own digital age. We are the children of computers in more than one sense, and no critic has done more than N Katherine Hayles to explain how these technologies define our culture and us. Heady and provocative, "My Mother Was a Computer" will be judged as her best work yet.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (18 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226321487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226321486
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.6 x 2.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 506,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"A deeply insightful and significant investigation of how the science and rhetorics of cybernetics have reshaped the boundaries of human identity." - Village Voice "In her important new book, N. Katherine Hayles... traces the evolution over the last half-century of a radical reconception of what it means to be human and, indeed, even of what it means to be alive, a reconception unleashed by the interplay of humans and intelligent machines." - Chicago Tribune"

About the Author

N. Katherine Hayles is the John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of three books, including How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, and the editor of Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Error-laden 4 Oct 2012
By David Auerbach - Published on
The technical knowledge on display in this book is thin indeed. Whatever one makes of the theory, there are so many factual errors in the presentation of computer science as to make the book wholly untrustworthy. Here is a sample:

"Some of the strategies C++ uses to achieve its language-like flexibility illustrate how it makes use of properties that do not appear in speech or writing and are specific to coding systems. Procedural languages work by what is called "early binding;' a process in which the compiler (the part of the code hierarchy that translates higher-level commands into the machine language) works with the linker to direct a function call (a message calling for a particular function to be run) to the absolute address of the code to be executed. At the time of compiling, early binding thus activates a direct link between the program, compiler, and address, joining these elements before the program is actually run. C++, by contrast, uses "late binding;' in which the compiler ensures that the function exists and checks its form for accuracy, but the actual address of the code is not used until the program is run. Late binding is part of what allows the objects to be self-contained with minimum interference with other objects."

Where this is not simply wrong (C++ IS a procedural language and predominantly uses early binding unless virtual inheritance makes it impossible), it is nonsense (the last sentence).
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart and informative 19 Jan 2010
By Buchliebhaber - Published on
A wonderful intellectual venture that takes readers to a fresh vantage point. A new path for digital humanities, an exciting field.
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