Software Studies

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Software Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary research field, which draws upon concepts from Cultural Studies, Critical Theory, Computer Science, Art and Design, Comparative Literature, Performance Studies, Media Studies, Science and Technology Studies (STS), amongst others. Software includes things that are interacted and associated with it such as databases, interfaces, programming languages, language syntax, platform infrastructure, design, packaging, programming, programmer, etc. However, Software Studies is different from Computer Science or Software Engineering because technical, technology or performance optimization are not the major concern. Instead, it is about a critical and reflexive understanding the broader impact, the aesthetics, the cultural, political and social aspects of software.

Software Studies emerged in the 2000s, and the first book that used the term in its title was Software Studies: A Lexicon edited by Matthew Fuller and published by The MIT Press, June 2008. In August 2008, MIT Press started the Software Studies book series. Computational Culture is an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of software studies, started in November 2011. The Wikipedia definition of Software Studies is here. For other aspects of its complex genealogy see Origins below.

This wiki acts as an active knowledge base and resource to document things and activities that are related to Software Studies. Please feel free to edit this site and contribute in shaping the field of Software Studies.

Related areas: Computational Culture, Critical Code Studies, Platform Studies, Software Art, Live Coding, Media Archaeology, New Materialism, Data Forensics, Network theory, Digital Humanities, etc.

See other Software Studies' descriptions

"Software can be seen as an object of study and an area of practice for art and design theory and the humanities, for cultural studies and science and technology studies and for an emerging reflexive strand of computer science." - Software Studies Workshop, 2006

"It takes the form of a series of short ‘studies’: creative and critical texts on particular algorithms, logical structures and digital objects. Such objects can be drawn from any layer of computational culture – from the front, to the back end. "- Software Studies Workshop, 2006

"Political and activist software lists useful activist software and projects questioning various aspect of capitalist society, globalization and neoliberal ideology; social software works towards providing environments for social interactions, including non-normative, or looks at the development of software as a social praxis." - Goriunova, 2007, p.85

"Software art, a field often substantially relying on folklore practices (here software users' and programmers' cultures) and their products that are distorted through ethnographer's, artist's or curator's, perspective and that are by their nature reluctant to transfer into the spheres of official and professional creative cultural production." - Goriunova, 2007, p.82

"Software art is a field that questions the invisibility and neutrality of software, demonstrating its in-built political, social, and cultural biases. [...] With Software art and similar scenes, software is dissociated from the 'naturalness' of mathematics and interpreted as a cultural construct." - Goriunova, 2007, p.77

"Software art means a shift of the artist's view from displays to the creation of systems and processes themselves; this is not covered by the concept of 'media'." - Cramer and Gabriel, 2001


  • "Software art as a term appeared around the late 90s and got its start from net art discourse. One of the first written mentioning of the term 'software art' can be found in Introduction to (1994-1999) [Shulgin and Bookchin 1999]" - Goriunova, 2007, p.74
  • In 2001, Transmediale (the festival for art and digital culture) introduced a category name "artistic software".
  • "Software studies is a relatively young discipline, even for new media scholarship. The term was first coined by Manovich in The Language of New Media (2001), but has only come to refer to a particular methodological approach in the last few years." - Grosser, [2011] 2014

Key milestones

Year Event
1970 Software exhibition, curated by Jack Burnham for Jewish Museum, New York, N. Y., United States
1999 The term "Software art" can be found in Introduction to (1994-1999)
2001 The term "Software Studies" was coined by Lev Manovich, it was first appeared in the book The Language of New Media
2001 Transmediale (the festival for art and digital culture) introduced a category name "artistic software"
2002 Read_me Festival 1.2 Software Art / Software Art Games at Macros Center, Moscow.
2002 Codedoc, 8 artists were commissioned by Whitney Museum (curated by Christiane Paul), and later for Ars Electronica Festival "CODE -- The Language of our Time" in 2003.
2003, software art repository, launched in January 2003
2006 Publication of the manifesto on Critical Code Studies by Mark Marino
2008 MIT Press started the Software Studies book series. The first book that used the term "Software Studies" in its title - Software Studies: A Lexicon edited by Matthew Fuller
2011 The launch of Computational Culture, an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of Software Studies