Software Evangelism and the Rhetoric of Morality

Coding Justice in a Digital Democracy

By Jennifer Helene Maher

© 2016 – Routledge

204 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415704243
pub: 2015-09-22
Available for pre-order
US Dollars$160.00
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About the Book

Examining the layers of meaning encoded in software and the rhetoric surrounding it, this book offers a much-needed perspective on the intersections between software, morality, and politics. In software development culture, evangelism typically denotes a rhetorical practice that aims to convert software developers, as well as non-technical lay users, from one platform to another (e.g., from the operating system Microsoft Windows to Linux). This book argues that software evangelism, like its religious counterpart, must also be understood as constructing moral and political values that extend well beyond the boundaries of the development culture. Unlike previous studies that locate such values in the effects of code in-use or in certain types of code like free and open source (FOSS) software, Maher argues that all code is meaningful beyond its technical, executable functions. To facilitate this analysis, this study builds a theory of evangelism and illustrates this theory at work in the proprietary software industry and FOSS communities. As an example of political liberalism at work at the level of code, these evangelical rhetorics of software construct competing conceptions of what is good that fall within a shared belief in what is just. Maher illustrates how these beliefs in goodness and justice do not always execute in replicable ways, as the different ways of decoding software evangelisms in the contexts of Brazil and China reveal. Demonstrating how software evangelisms exert a transformative force on the world, one comparable in significance to code itself, this book highlights the importance of rhetoric in even the most seemingly a-rhetorical of technical endeavors and foregrounds the crucial need for rhetorical literacy in the digital age.

Table of Contents

1. Encoding and Decoding 2. An Invitation to Freedom 3. Moral Code 4. Fair Regulation 5. Embracing Rhetoric

About the Author

Jennifer Helene Maher is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Rhetoric and Communication

This series is our home for cutting-edge, scholarly studies and edited collections in the fields of rhetoric and writing studies. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COM000000
COMPUTERS / General
COM051000
COMPUTERS / Programming / General
LAN004000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
LAN015000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Rhetoric