Code as Ritualized Poetry: The Tactics of the Transborder Immigrant Tool

Critical Writing
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Journal volume and issue: 
7:1 (2013)
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Abstract (in English): 

The Transborder Immigrant Tool is a provocative mobile phone app by the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) that provides sustenance to border crossers by leading them to water and guiding them with poetry. Although the tool can be applied to any border, the chief border it has been tied to and tested on is the US-Mexico border. The EDT present the project as an artistic disruption of the tired national political theater staged at that border. The piece refocuses attention on the basic human needs of those caught in the middle of the stale and stalemated divide. For the EDT, every part of the piece participates in this disruption not merely the finished app or the poetry but the code as well. In this paper, I ask, what would it mean for the code to poetic disruption? One set of poetry for the project created by Amy Sara Carroll offers instructions for desert survival. By presenting instructions as poems, she offers one entre into reading the source code of the app as poetry. Using the methods of Critical Code Studies, I read the code of TBT in light of and as part of the poetic intervention of this complex performance.

(Source: Author's abstract at DHQ)

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Scott Rettberg