Search engines, recommendation systems, mapping applications, blog tools, auction tools, instant messaging clients, and, of course, platforms which allow others to write new software – iOS, Android, Facebook, Windows, Linux, – are in the center of the global economy, culture, social life, and, increasingly, politics. And this “cultural software” – cultural in a sense that it is directly used by hundreds of millions of people and that it carries “atoms” of culture (media and information, as well as human interactions around these media and information) – is only the visible part of a much larger software universe.
Paradoxically, while social scientists, philosophers, cultural critics, and media and new media theorists have by now seem to cover all aspects of IT revolution, creating a number of new disciplines such as cyber culture, Internet studies, new media theory, and digital culture, the underlying engine which drives most of these subjects—software—has received relatively little direct attention. Even today when people are constantly interacting with and updating dozens of apps on their mobile phones and other computer devices, “software” as a distinct theoretical category is still invisible to most academics, artists, and cultural professionals interested in IT and its cultural and social effects.
I think of software as a layer that permeates all areas of contemporary societies. Therefore, if we want to understand contemporary techniques of control, communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision-making, memory, vision, writing, and interaction, our analysis can't be complete until we consider this software layer. Which means that all disciplines which deal with contemporary society and culture – architecture, design, art criticism, sociology, political science, humanities, science and technology studies, and so on – need to account for the role of software and its effects in whatever subjects they investigate.