Can notions of text which were developed without electronic texts in mind be applied to digital code, and how does literature come into play here?

This paper is based on the general (yet disputable) assumption that the theoretical debate of literature in digital networks has shifted, just as the poetic practices it is shaped after, from perceiving computer data as an extension and transgression of textuality (as manifest in such notions as ''hypertext'', ''hyperfiction'', ''hyper-/ multimedia'') towards paying attention to the very codedness - i.e. textuality - of digital systems themselves. Several phenomena may serve as empirical evidence:

  • The early focus of conceptualist on the aesthetics and politics of code;
  • in turn, the impact of aesthetics on experimental literature / poetry in the Internet;
  • the close discooursive affinity of to political activism in the Internet;
  • the close aesthetic affinity of to a the languages and codes of an older, technically oriented ''hacker'' culture (of Chaos Computer Club, 2600, and others);
  • a convergence of the three cultures mentioned above -, net activism and hacker culture;
  • (a) Free/Open Source Software and/or (b) open network protocols as key discursive, political and aesthetical issues in all these camps;
  • finally, the impact of hacker aesthetics, aesthetics, code aesthetics and network protocol aesthetics on contemporary writing in the Internet. (See the work of mez, Alan Sondheim, Talan Memmott, Ted Warnell and others.)

The question is how ''Codeworks'' (Alan Sondheim) fit notions of text that were crafted without digital code - most importantly: machine-executable digital code - in mind, and vice versa. Is it a coincidence that, in their poetical appropriation of low-level Internet codes, codeworks ended up aesthetically resembling concrete poetry? And, apart from aesthetic resemblances, how do computer programs relate to literature? Is that what is currently being discussed as ''Software Art'' a literary genre?