Executing Practices -- Helen Pritchard, Eric Snodgrass, Magdalena Tyz ̇lik-Carver


“Contained in every “blip” of execution is a range of technical and cultural issues to be addressed, with one operational experience of executing practices opening onto another (Fuller 2003).“

The discussion in Executing Practices was a very interesting look at the many technological, social, political, economic, physical and even personal repercussions of executing algorithms and other kinds of computational instructions. Thinking critically about computation is a relatively new area of study, however as technology becomes more ingrained in our every day lives, we know that algorithms and the processes of execution can have tremendous knock-on effects for people across the globe.

“…computational practices, the problems of execution are historically situated and entangled with the contingent forces of machines, bodies, institutions, military labour practices and geopolitics, rather than simply a set of instructions that are outside of life. “

“As Jennifer Gabrys notes in the collection’s afterword, execution “is a process and condition that might unfurl through code, but also overspills the edges of code”. “

It is important for us to understand the gravity of such overspills, especially when talking about massive shifts in the labour market — from most people working to more robotics and AI taking over — to huge environmental and social implications regarding warfare, drones, privacy, etc.

When discussing the linguistic and teleological qualities of “execute”, I was reminded of the word “alarm”: something we might use every day to wake up, forgetting that “alarm” has its roots in fear and impending danger. The meaning of the language we use is often obfuscated by history or complex linguistic lineages, but remembering the meaning of “execute” has to remind us of the many ways in which it can be used — both positive and negative.