Deconstruct Almost Anything

An essay by ChipMorningstar? has caught the attention of a number of PLoPers. Chip describes his exploration of one isolated literature. We wonder if we aren't creating a similar and equally questionable literature ourselves. The following is from Chip's introduction. -- WardCunningham

This is the story of one computer professional's explorations in the world of postmodern literary criticism. I'm a working software engineer, not a student nor an academic nor a person with any real background in the humanities. Consequently, I've approached the whole subject with a somewhat different frame of mind than perhaps people in the field are accustomed to. Being a vulgar engineer I'm allowed to break a lot of the rules that people in the humanities usually have to play by, since nobody expects an engineer to be literate. Ha. Anyway, here is my tale.

There was a story in the New York Times a few months back about how Alan Sokal, a Physicist, wrote an article for a Po-Mo literary journal that was so full of deconstructionist lingo that no one at the journal (published by Duke University) noticed that it made absolutely no sense. It invited people to question reality and natural "laws" by in effect, stepping out of third-story windows. See also ...

I don't think that Patterns are in quite as much danger as Po-Mo lit crit. We should be safe as long as we follow KentBeck's maxim to either "do stuff, or talk about stuff, but don't talk about doing stuff!" -- KyleBrown

To tar the useful theory of deconstruction with the brush of the worst excesses is as useful as assuming that all software is bad after an examination of typical Microsoft code. Chip's insights into deconstructionism are very useful and elegant, but it's a shame he started out with all that bias. -- BryantDurrell (

With your contribution, which builds so well on the vulgar postmodern software engineering diatribe of preceding entries, this page itself is now a model (or parody, it's all the same) of a deconstructionist argument. :-) -- JimCoplien

Here's a DeconstructionExample. I fancifully ask the question, "What if ChristopherAlexander had been a deconstructionist?" I've also used deconstruction as a brainstorming technique - DeconstructiveBrainstorm.

The most engineer-friendly account of deconstruction that I've read is Phil Agre's Computation and Human Experience. He used some techniques from deconstruction to articulate what was bugging him about AI planning research (his dissertation topic). I agree with ChipMorningstar? that Jonathon Culler's On Deconstruction is a good place to go next.

ChipMorningstar?'s account of a typical deconstruction procedure is a good one. He (like the academics he's sending up) is going for style points, which makes his explanation a bit less useful than it could be. But more entertaining.

-- BrianMarick

Deconstruction was devised to criticize PostModernism thought. Including it in PostModernism is incorrect. From a Buddhist point of view it is restating the obvious anyway. All divisions are false dichotomies. Or, to be less obscure, every statement hides an agenda (ego). -- RichardHenderson

Why incorrect? Critical theory is fully part of an artistical movement's.

Well it's been a while. I have softened in my old age. Deconstruction is, I suppose, commonly considered to be associated with post-modernism, so 'incorrect' is a bit strong. That sentence could be excised without any damage. Nevertheless Derrida claimed not to be any sort of 'ist'. Indeed deconstruction is a reaction to definition/division. Which is ironic, but there you go :). -- RH

See FashionableNonsense, SokalHoax, SimplifyByDivision

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