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Call for Papers

Code as Conversation: Transmedia Dialogues Around Critical Code Studies 

University of Cambridge, Saturday 1 June, 2024

Keynote: Professor David Berry (Sussex) | Co-convenors: Claire Carroll & Orla Delaney

Submission deadline extended to midnight, Sunday 24 March 2024

‘Hello World!’ is how all computer programmers begin, and it’s how Mark C. Marino opens his manifesto for critical code studies. This elementary exercise in coding, accompanied by the instruction PRINT, demonstrates that “code exists not for machines but for humans who need to communicate with the machine and with other humans.” The code we write enables us to interface with the machine, sitting somewhere between human language and the calculations performed by the computer. 

We take up conversation as a means of interrogating the performative, cultural, and functional nature of code. The discipline of critical code studies extrapolates outward from close readings of chunks of computer code to capture the broader phenomena at work behind them: the users, communities, engineers, teachers, critics, routers, servers, compilers, computers, chargers, and utility networks. The framework of the conversation places code into continuous mutual negotiation with these resources; compiling is only the beginning of the process. 

However, critical code studies is frustrated by the increased preponderance of deep neural networks, which abstract code processes further from what is intelligible through language; human critique and understanding hinges on our ability to read and speak back to code. How do these conversations falter when language is obstructed, and how can we develop methodologies to keep understanding obfuscated code?

This one-day conference on the dynamic field of critical code studies will expand on the conversations begun by the Cultural Politics of Code reading group at Cambridge. The Keynote will be delivered by David Berry, Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex.

We welcome submissions of code readings, critiques, papers, and explorations that engage with code as a phenomenon that is simultaneously communicative and functional. We would be particularly excited to read contributions from those on the margins of critical code studies: both humanities practitioners new to the interpretation of code, and those from STEM disciplines interested in humanities analysis. We hope that this will lead to a day of conversation that is authentically cross-disciplinary and productive of new approaches to critical code studies.

Presentations may include work on the following subjects:

  • Code comments and collaborations between development teams and users.
  • Close readings of code that adopt the critical vocabulary of e.g. literature, anthropology, cultural studies
  • Communication between different coding languages, compilers, and hardware.
  • Translation and collaboration between different historic encoding systems (e.g. shorthand, cryptography, musical notation, telegraph codes).
  • Incommensurabilities of language between code and critique
  • The social world of code/code as a social phenomenon
  • Code remediations and intermediations (e.g. code poetry, API work)
  • Relations of authorship and readership as they apply to code
  • Conversation and collaboration as tools for critiquing (as well as building) code
  • The position of the platform in code conversation

Read the convenors’ reflections on the Cultural Politics of Code in their recent blogpost.

Presentation formats

Papers — 12-15 minutes

Individual talks are welcome and will be grouped into sessions around similar topics.

To apply, please submit abstracts via this form.


Experimental performances, installations, or projects pertinent to the symposium will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In lieu of filling out the form, please email a brief bio and project description (250 words each) to The subject of the email should begin with [Experimental Proposal].


Submission Deadline: Friday, 15 March, 2024, by 5:00pm GMT

Submission Deadline extended to midnight, Sunday 24 March 2024

Applicants Notified: Monday, 1 April, 2024, by 5:00pm BST

Applicants will be notified by the later date of Thursday 4 April 2024


This conference will be held in person at the Sidgwick Site in Cambridge, however if you have accessibility needs or restrictions that would impede your attendance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 


  • Posted 25 Jan 2024

Cambridge Digital Humanities

Tel: +44 1223 766886