Monday, December 22, 2014

Negative versioning

"Versioning," for me, is duplicating a file I'm working on (code, circuit board, essay) at various official and casual points in its development, and applying a number to that point in time. This is obviously for purposes of back-up, but it also provides a history of the development, and finally, an aesthetic trajectory of the "piece." Martin Howse's book "xxxxxx," has a piece about versioning, using the "diff" command line to deconstruct a literary work.

Versioning is usually an additive process: new developments are marked by an positive increment, in integer or fraction, of the number. I prefer negative versioning, for a practical reason once again; decrements of the number result in an alphabetical order with the newest at the top, not at the bottom, so I can always find it. So an idea for negative versioning comes from the default presets of an operating system.

However, there are teleological implications for negative versioning. The standard incremental idea mirrors the capitalist corporation, prioritizing growth, as a sort of judicially recognized organism, with death and decay surgically removed by integer set theory. I know that my software will become an artifact someday, perhaps not immediately useful, perhaps only running in an emulation of a laptop. But it will remain intentionally organized, a crystal growth, and I will be dead. So does my software need to grow? I propose that when I die, whatever low number my code is at, becomes zero, or perhaps someone else brings it to zero. That is, it becomes burned. But on the way, there is the version one, not as the first hacked stab at a program, but a distilled idea of what the code should be. You see, negative versioning implies the philosophical quest for a truth, or an alchemical distillation of code. It is more sustainable than positive versioning; it does not emphasize growth but decay and pruning of unnecessary limbs.

Martin Howse, to me, is a writer on microcontrollers; he makes me happy to program an 8-bit corkwafer even though these are fetishes of the highest degree. He writes on embedded philosophy, asking, "where is the site of code?" It could be the hardware, the software, the embedded os, the hackerspace of it all. His instrument on the black plague could easily be a negative version.

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