Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

David Golumbia


In 1987, computer programmer and linguist Larry Wall authored the general-purpose, high-level, interpreted, dynamic Unix scripting language, Perl. Borrowing features from C and awk, Perl was originally intended as a scripting language for text-processing. However, with the rising popularity of the Internet and the advent of Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web (Web), in the 1990s, Perl soon became the glue-language for the Internet, due in large part to its relationship to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). Perl was the go-to language for on the fly program writing and coding, gaining accolades from the likes of publisher Tim O’Reilly and hackers alike. Perl became a favorite language of amateur Web users, whom net artist Olia Lialina calls barbarians, or the indigenous. These users authored everything from database scripts to social spaces like chatrooms and bulletin boards. Perl, while largely ignored today, played a fundamental role in facilitating those social spaces and interactions of Web 1.0, or what I refer to as a Perl-net. Thus, Perl informed today’s more ubiquitous digital culture, referred to as Web 2.0, and the social web. This project examines Perl’s origin which is predicated on postmodern theories, such as deconstructionism and multiculturalism. Perl’s formal features are differentiated from those of others, like Java. In order to defend Perl’s status as an inherently cultural online tool, this project also analyzes many instances of cultural artifacts: script programs, chatrooms, code poetry, webpages, and net art. This cultural analysis is guided by the work of contemporary media archaeologists: Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka. Lastly, the present state of digital culture is analyzed in an effort to re-consider the Perl scripting language as a relevant, critical computer language, capable of aiding in deprogramming the contemporary user.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

Available for download on Tuesday, May 09, 2023