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Participants: Derya Akbaba * Ben Allen * Natalia-Rozalia Avlona * Kirill Azernyi * Erin Kathleen Bahl * Natasha Bajc * Lucas Bang * Tully Barnett * Ivette Bayo * Eamonn Bell * John Bell * kiki benzon * Liat Berdugo * Kathi Berens * David Berry * Jeffrey Binder * Philip Borenstein * Gregory Bringman * Sophia Brueckner * Iris Bull * Zara Burton * Evan Buswell * Ashleigh Cassemere-Stanfield * Brooke Cheng* Alm Chung * Jordan Clapper * Lia Coleman * Imani Cooper * David Cuartielles * Edward de Jong * Pierre Depaz * James Dobson * Quinn Dombrowski * Amanda Du Preez * Tristan Espinoza * Emily Esten * Meredith Finkelstein * Caitlin Fisher * Luke Fischbeck * Leonardo Flores * Laura Foster * Federica Frabetti * Jorge Franco * Dargan Frierson * Arianna Gass * Marshall Gillson * Jan Grant * Rosi Grillmair * Ben Grosser * E.L. (Eloisa) Guerrero * Yan Guo * Saksham Gupta * Juan Gutierrez * Gottfried Haider * Nabil Hassein * Chengbo He * Brian Heim * Alexis Herrera * Paul Hertz * shawné michaelain holloway * Stefka Hristova * Simon Hutchinson * Mai Ibrahim * Bryce Jackson * Matt James * Joey Jones * Masood Kamandy * Steve Klabnik * Goda Klumbyte * Rebecca Koeser * achim koh * Julia Kott * James Larkby-Lahet * Milton Laufer * Ryan Leach * Clarissa Lee * Zizi Li * Lilian Liang * Keara Lightning * Chris Lindgren * Xiao Liu * Paloma Lopez * Tina Lumbis * Ana Malagon * Allie Martin * Angelica Martinez * Alex McLean * Chandler McWilliams * Sedaghat Payam Mehdy * Chelsea Miya * Uttamasha Monjoree * Nick Montfort * Stephanie Morillo * Ronald Morrison * Anna Nacher * Maxwell Neely-Cohen * Gutierrez Nicholaus * David Nunez * Jooyoung Oh * Mace Ojala * Alexi Orchard * Steven Oscherwitz * Bomani Oseni McClendon * Kirsten Ostherr * Julia Polyck-O'Neill * Andrew Plotkin * Preeti Raghunath * Nupoor Ranade * Neha Ravella * Amit Ray * David Rieder * Omar Rizwan * Barry Rountree * Jamal Russell * Andy Rutkowski * samara sallam * Mark Sample * Zehra Sayed * Kalila Shapiro * Renee Shelby * Po-Jen Shih * Nick Silcox * Patricia Silva * Lyle Skains * Winnie Soon * Claire Stanford * Samara Hayley Steele * Morillo Stephanie * Brasanac Tea * Denise Thwaites * Yiyu Tian * Lesia Tkacz * Fereshteh Toosi * Alejandra Trejo Rodriguez * Álvaro Triana * Job van der Zwan * Frances Van Scoy * Dan Verständig * Roshan Vid * Yohanna Waliya * Sam Walkow * Kuan Wang * Laurie Waxman * Jacque Wernimont * Jessica Westbrook * Zach Whalen * Shelby Wilson * Avery J. Wiscomb * Grant Wythoff * Cy X * Hamed Yaghoobian * Katherine Ye * Jia Yu * Nikoleta Zampaki * Bret Zawilski * Jared Zeiders * Kevin Zhang * Jessica Zhou * Shuxuan Zhou

Guests: Kayla Adams * Sophia Beall * Daisy Bell * Hope Carpenter * Dimitrios Chavouzis * Esha Chekuri * Tucker Craig * Alec Fisher * Abigail Floyd * Thomas Forman * Emily Fuesler * Luke Greenwood * Jose Guaraco * Angelina Gurrola * Chandler Guzman * Max Li * Dede Louis * Caroline Macaulay * Natasha Mandi * Joseph Masters * Madeleine Page * Mahira Raihan * Emily Redler * Samuel Slattery * Lucy Smith * Tim Smith * Danielle Takahashi * Jarman Taylor * Alto Tutar * Savanna Vest * Ariana Wasret * Kristin Wong * Helen Yang * Katherine Yang * Renee Ye * Kris Yuan * Mei Zhang
Coordinated by Mark Marino (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), and Zach Mann (USC). Sponsored by the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (USC), and the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons (UCSB).

Westworld & Code

Inspired by @lizlosh's thread, I've like to open a thread to the discussion of source code in the HBO serial Westworld. This thread will be full of spoilers, so if you haven't seen the show, please, stop reading now. The producers of the show are clearly aware that this code will be read by viewers who can pause, screenshot, zoom, et cetera.

I'm most interested with the relationship between Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), the android (host) who runs (perhaps a poor choice of words) the local brothel, and her own source code.

First, others have already decided that this code is written in JavaScript React and faux HTML, although I remember an episode where she sees her own dialogue maps as she is talking that resembled language modeling software.

Her radarchart of personality traits has also been simulated.

What do these representations of code say about our conceptions of code?

Needless to say this is a fraught topic. Maeve is an android host built to be a woman of color who runs a brothel -- although I suspect each of those elements were chosen because they were so fraught and to serve up sexual fantasies for a white male-gaze.

That said, I'm still interested in representations of code and the idea of a programmed being's relationship to their code, especially since Maeve seems to oppose her own programming.

See also this article: 10 Things Westworld Gets Wrong about Coding

Of course, I would also like to bring this representation of code to the intersecting explorations of gender, race, and creativity that make up our WG this year.


  • Definitely guilty of pausing to parse the code! When I spotted React, that got me thinking both about React's approach that makes use of a 'virtual DOM' and also about its makers at Facebook.

    Maybe the easier inclination when engaging with science fiction is to imagine oneself still more human, guest not host, but could React draw a throughline from the seemingly tame virtual selves and spaces seen online now to speculative AI selves and spaces? At which point a host rewriting her own code nicely emphasizes the blurry configurations of HCI.

  • edited January 2018

    Regarding encoded dialog trees and gendered representation specifically:

    I had two talented undergraduate researchers this past summer -- Juliet Way-Henthorne and Annette Ding -- who were working with me on my Transverse Readings project mapping narrative branching pathways in the Katz Gamebook Archive. Each student researcher wrote a different short research report on selected works from the collection that were narrative choice maps in genres such as interactive romances or fantasies with female protagonists (ostensibly targeting female readers). When female readers and female characters are given a branching tree of choices, what choices are offered, which are chosen, what are the outcomes?

    Their write-ups each contain example graphs from the project.

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