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[P]
CounterPoint: Programming as an artform

By jeh in Op-Ed
Mon May 14, 2001 at 06:47:23 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

While there is a difference between artistry and functionality, they are neither mutually exclusive, nor intrinisically linked. The idea that simply because something is functional it is not artful is fallacious - and in fact not supported by the "art" community itself.

In the below I attempt to argue the opposing to Jin Wicked's editorial of a few days hence, and present my views - one which many of the commenters expressed in some form or another.


While I detest and deplore the labelling of objects as art or not - instead preferring to label a field of an endeavor an artform and judging the work by it's elegance and the mastery of its creator - I'll use the phrase in the intent Ms. Wicked used it.

Ms. Wicked, to my mind, commits several errors. I will cover them individually. Primary in my mind is the idea that an objects utility directly negates its ability to be artful. This notion lacks support even from within Ms. Wicked's own field. The MoMA in New York - who I would daresay are qualified to identify certain forms of art - possess several extremely useful objects in their Design Collection. These include the iMac and the Aeron Chair. In the case of the Aeron chair, it was designed with utility in mind - before all else - and yet is extremely artful.

Then there is the matter of advertising and graphic design. This is artistic work with an extremely useful purpose. While many "pure" artists bemoan the "commerciality" of much of this work, many members of the art community have great respect for the mastery of certain members of this trade.

Photography, too - although only recently considered a pure art - is highly utilitarian. Much of the greatest photographic work is initially done for newspapers and magazine, but for the purpose of disseminating information. Again utilitarianism.

Secondly, the idea that intellectual endeavors are not art is again fallacious. Let me take, first, the example of mathematics. Mathematicians (and having a degree in mathematics I am familiar with the territory) do not consider equations beautiful - something you'd know if you understood the field. Mathematicians do, however, consider theorems and certain proofs to be beautiful. Why? In one word: elegance. There are some ideas whose expression is so powerful and wide-sweeping and whose support is so compact and yet, well, elegant that it induces wonder. I think that is, at its core, the goal of art. To induce wonder, provoke thought, and evoke an emotion. A truly elegant and beautiful theorem and/or proof do this - to one who is suitably trained.

And before you question whether it can be art if you must be trained to truly appreciate it, let me point this out: professional musicians appreciate music in a way the mere layperson cannot. A friend of mine who is a professional oboist refers to a certain oboist of a famous orchestra as sounding like a foghorn. I, however, cannot appreciate this detail. However, she can't appreciate the elegance of, say, the Riemann Mapping Theorem.

Another striking flaw in Ms. Wicked's argument is embodied is this quote:

But please -- stop making claims that simply well-written code in itself is art. Us real artists are not impressed -- in fact, some of us are a smite miffed. And if you start showing up at coffee shops wearing berets, dark glasses, and a goatee, I'm going to start looking into a career change.
This level of pretension is insufferable. Further, this is the fallacy of authority. Simply because you paint does not qualify you to determine the artfulness of another form. You understand art is one form (perhaps more) but not all its forms.

Next, there is the question of whether or not something has value irrespective of its status as art. Ms. Wicked seems to argue that coders consider some of their work art because it allows them to believe they are working for a higher purpose. This is a fairly absurd statement, and conceived from the narrow viewpoint of an "real artist". Not everything is or can be art - and that doesn't make an endeavor greater or lesser for it.

Finally there is the problem of whether code can be art. Ms. Wicked seems to believe you can produce are with software (i.e. pretty pictures, or sounds, or what not). But this is not what we mean by it. Can code itself be art?

The answer, again to my mind, is yes. Code is a means of expressing complicated ideas. I cannot compose the same range of thoughts into code as I can in English, Italian, or French, but there is no argument that I can compose thoughts. And as such, I can be expressive. And that is sufficient to allow one to create art. Make no mistake, not all code is art (far from it!), but the notion that I cannot write artful code is an absurdity.

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CounterPoint: Programming as an artform | 85 comments (74 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
I greatly concur with your thesis (4.75 / 4) (#1)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:38:40 AM EST

Is a beautiful building a work of art? It was designed to be functional and its form was dictacted largely by equations. Yet some buildings are also considered masterpieces of art.

How about a sports car? Again, designed for functionality and its form is dictated largely by equations. Yet some people fall in love with the aesthetic attributes of some automobiles.

How about pottery? Functional in nature, it can certainly be considered to be art?

How about the iconography of the Orthodox Church? These paintings are explicitly functional, meant to theologically educate the observer through use of symbols. Are they then not to be considered art?

Countering the examples (2.50 / 4) (#10)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:18:13 PM EST

"Is a beautiful building a work of art?"

Is a beautiful woman art? Beauty does not imply art.

"Yet some people fall in love with the aesthetic attributes of some automobiles."

If the aesthetic attributes (say, the shape of the hubcaps) were meant as art then sure, the hubcaps are art. But 1) just because I like how the hubcaps look doesn't make them artistic and 2) even if the hubcaps are artistic, why does the gas tank get a free ride to artsville just by virtue of a continue chain of steel connecting the two?

My response to pottery is largely the same as for cars.

Iconography: Yes, they are explicitly functional--but the function is "to be art."

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Your replies tend to illustrate my point (3.33 / 3) (#12)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:37:08 PM EST

The question of whether something is art or not is orthogonal to the question of whether it has a function.

BTW, you are mistaken about the function of iconography. The function is not to be art, which is why I used iconography as an example to illustrate my point. The predominant function of Orthodox iconography is to express to the observer a particular spiritual reality. In other words, an icon is never intended to be art. Rather, an icons are educational in nature and is only art to the same extent that a textbook is.

For more on icons, I highly reccomend Jarislov Pelikan's excellent book Imago Dei.

[ Parent ]

No, they don't (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:30:13 PM EST

"The question of whether something is art or not is orthogonal to the question of whether it has a function."

I agree. Here is what I'm NOT saying "A gas tank is not art because it is meant to hold gas." Here is what I AM saying: "A gas tank is not art because it is meant only to hold gas." It's not the functionality that excludes it from being art, it's the lack of artistic intent that keeps it from being art. Don't be confused by the fact that all my examples happen to be functional.

"The predominant function of Orthodox iconography is to express to the observer a particular spiritual reality."

Just because the creators of these icons didn't use the word English word "art" doesn't mean they intended it as something non-art. I would argue that anything that is intended to convey a message (especially a "spiritual message") to the observer is "art". Programming doesn't do that, religious iconography does.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Programming doesn't convey a message? (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:55:15 PM EST

I would argue that anything that is intended to convey a message (especially a "spiritual message") to the observer is "art". Programming doesn't do that, religious iconography does.
First, by this definition both Jack Chick tracts and email are always art.

Second, if I were you, I'd quit exposing my ignorance about iconography.

It's not the functionality that excludes it from being art, it's the lack of artistic intent that keeps it from being art.
To me, this statement sounds an awful lot like my point that the whether or not an item is a piece of art is orthogonal to the question of whether or not it is functional. Therefore, if this is what you were attempting to illustrate, your examples illustrate the point I was trying to make.

[ Parent ]
Is a beautiful woman art? (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by i on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:41:59 PM EST

It depends on whether you believe in God.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
This is a cheap trick. (none / 0) (#29)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:21:53 PM EST

The set of "God" includes everything. If "God" is a qualification for set membership, there is but one set.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Only for certain definitions of God (none / 0) (#31)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:45:34 PM EST

The set of "God" includes everything. If "God" is a qualification for set membership, there is but one set.
This is only the definition of God for some forms of pantheism. Most (not all) athestis would contend that the set of "God" is empty. Other atheists (as well as most agnostics) would likely contend that set of "God" is a meaningless abstraction. Most theists (pantheists excluded) would contend that the set of "God" contends one or more members.

However, whether one uses your pantheistic definition of God is neither here nor there. Given any system of thought (Pantheistic or not) that views God as creator of the physical realm, of which a beautiful woman is a member, the previous poster has a valid point.

[ Parent ]

i agree with this (none / 0) (#37)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:20:14 PM EST

Given any system of thought (Pantheistic or not) that views God as creator of the physical realm, of which a beautiful woman is a member, the previous poster has a valid point.

I agree. God -- or Godplex, if you prefer -- is a universal attribute. Whether the God is an artist or a god is an artist or Nature is an artist, the attribute artist applies to the our inclusive understanding of 'God.' But so does the attribute mathematician and philosopher. I'm not prepared to decide that God created Man artistically or mathematically instead of through some process we fail to understand for our mortality.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Just one point (2.50 / 8) (#3)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:44:04 AM EST

The MoMA in New York - who I would daresay are qualified to identify certain forms of art - possess several extremely useful objects in their Design Collection.

This proves nothing; the MoMA also possess several extremely useful objects in their boiler room and men's lavatories. However, neither the janitorial nor sanitary facilities are labelled "art"; nor is the design collection.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Still not convinced (4.00 / 8) (#5)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:05:18 PM EST

Back when I was in college, I convinced an English professor that I should be allowed to write a paper explaining how programming was art. It didn't turn out that well and I think the reason was that I was way off base. Let me (try to) explain why.

First, I think art is only art if was intended that way by somebody. (That somebody may not be the purpose who created an object, but may instead be someone who displayed it *as* art, for instance, nature photos). So, for instance, if I blow my nose the resulting wet kleenex is not, by itself, art. The reason is that I had no intention of creating art, my only intention was to clear my nasal passages. (Again, if I hang my wet kleenex in a museum for consideration by others, it is art--but only because I thought to make it so.)

The same with (most) programming. When I write a script to handle auto-logons for my home network, it's not art because my only intention was on solving a problem. My solution may be elegant, but elegance alone does not art make. Also for mathematics. A theorem or equation can be elegant but, as a naturally-occuring object, it cannot be art anymore than a rose, all by itself, is.

That's not to say that programming (specifically) or engineering (in general) can't be artistic. For instance, the Eiffel Tower. But notice that the ET solves no problem. An engineered artifact may also have multiple parts--a "core" part that does the work an "outer" part that is pure artistry ("core" and "outer" are not necessarily physical descriptions). For instance, a car or a house. The six sides of a room are plain engineering, the interior decor is art.

Look at it this way: A novel is art. But what is the artistic part? What the novel says? Or the actual syntactic parts: nouns, verbs, paragraph breaks, etc? I say it's the meaning of the novel, not the nuts and bolts of how it got on paper and into my hands. But, with the exception of one part, "nuts and bolts" is all programming is. And that last one part is the abstract algorithm--which is generally a "platonic" object that wasn't created by a human and therefore has no artistic merit.

Play 囲碁
I'm not sure that the there is a clear distinction (none / 0) (#11)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:24:37 PM EST

You point out the Eiffel tower as being art, what about the Empire State Building? The Hagia Sophia? The Taj Mahal?

Certainly a prefabricated shed I put up in my backyard isn't art, but what if I take the time to sculpt an elegant gazebo out of fine wood?

Similiarly, a particle board office table I buy from a supply store isn't art, but what about a beautiful table carved from walnut?

It is easy to find examples on one end of the spectrum or the other, but a large number of examples tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

[ Parent ]

Why does it all have to be mashed together (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:48:03 PM EST

Let me add an example to your list. I build a shed and then paint the Mona Lisa on the side. By your logic, the whole kit and caboodle is now "art". Is the back yard I built it in included? What about the house sharing the land? The furniture in the house?

What about if I build the shed but don't do the painting until 20 years later? If the shed wasn't art until the painting was added, why should the "shed" part get any credit at all afterwards?

A carved table is an excellent example of something that is both artistic AND functional. But note that it wasn't the functional purpose (holding crap off the floor) that made it artistic--it was the beautiful carving. That just illustrates MY point that functional engineering alone does not create art. (Most) programming is not art, as I said originally.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
I'm not exactly sure what you are objecting to. (none / 0) (#27)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:02:16 PM EST

Let me add an example to your list. I build a shed and then paint the Mona Lisa on the side. By your logic, the whole kit and caboodle is now "art".
Show me where I wrote anything remotely resembling such an assertion.

Let me try to clarify my position.

Imagine for a moment a specutrum of art. On the one side of the spectrum we have things that are undeniably art. On the other side of the specturm we have things that are undeniably not art. We also have some things that lie somewhere in the middle, that are only arguably art or only arguably not art.

Are you with me so far? If so great. If not, just rate me down to 1 and move along because we are on entirely different wavelengths.

I've been contending that whether or not something serves a functional purpose has absolutely no bearing on where on that art/non-art specturm an object lies. Do we agree on that?

[ Parent ]

Yes, we agree on that (none / 0) (#32)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:50:40 PM EST

"I've been contending that whether or not something serves a functional purpose has absolutely no bearing on where on that art/non-art specturm an object lies. Do we agree on that?"

Yes, as I've pointed out elsewhere, we do. And, like I said else where, it's not the existence of functionality that excludes the possiblity of an object being art. It's lack of intent for something to be artistic that excludes that possibility.

When I write a program, I am trying to solve a problem. The resulting program, lacking artistic intent, is not art. Now imagine me writing a program (maybe even the same program as before)--but this time I make the variable names rhyme and enter it in a poetry contest. Now it's art (probably very very bad art). It is also functional, but as we both agree that's irrelevant.

The only reason I brought up functionality in the first place was that a creation (a poem, a bridge, etc) implies at least one purpose. For 99% of all engineering, that purpose is pure function. For 99% of all art, that purpose is pure art. The fact that a few objects happen to exist in overlapping categories is not enough to qualify programming as art.

Let's turn the argument around: What if I submitted an article entitled "Painting is Programming" and backed it up with demonstrations that some painted surfaces have a functional use? Absurd. So is the claim that, just because art and function are occasionally coincident in time and space, the processes that bring those respective properties about are isomorphic.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Good question (none / 0) (#33)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:59:17 PM EST

Let's turn the argument around: What if I submitted an article entitled "Painting is Programming" and backed it up with demonstrations that some painted surfaces have a functional use? Absurd.
I can envision a painter that painted a picture that could be fed through some sort of OCR device and be translated into computer code. What if someone wrote helloworld.c in traditional caligraphy using a ink on canvas, would it cease to be a computer program?

What about the case of the piano composer that composes by manually cutting holes in paper rolls for player pianos. His work certainly blurs the line between music and programming. I would say that this composer is simply the flip side of hardcore industrial bands like Mental Destruction that spend years coding their album in assembler. (Favorite quote from MD: Bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails are industrial the same way that Bon Jovi is death metal.)

[ Parent ]

Category error (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:18:27 PM EST

"What if someone wrote helloworld.c in traditional caligraphy using a ink on canvas, would it cease to be a computer program?"

Does a canvas cease to be a flat, paintable surface once the Mona Lisa is on it? No. Does that mean the Mona Lisa is not art? No. You are confusing content (the program) with expression (the calligraphy).

"What about the case of the piano composer that composes by manually cutting holes in paper rolls for player pianos. His work certainly blurs the line between music and programming. I would say that this composer is simply the flip side of hardcore industrial bands like Mental Destruction that spend years coding their album in assembler."

Again you are confusing the medium with the message. A novelist creates a book by using a typewriter. Should we therefore believe that "Typing is Art"?

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
no confusion (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:38:25 PM EST

A novelist creates a book by using a typewriter. Should we therefore believe that "Typing is Art"?
The novelist anology is a straw man.

That said, for someone typing in ryhtmic fashion with express intent to create percussive music, typing is art. Hence, for certain classes of people composers (regardless of whether the music is composed by staff notation or assembler language or cutting holes in a program scroll), a programming language is a medium to express art and therefore, in these cases, programming is art.

You are confusing content (the program) with expression (the calligraphy).
As expresed, your distinction makes no sense to me. In this case, the "content" and the "program" are identical.

[ Parent ]
What does "X is Y" mean to you? (none / 0) (#45)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 08:26:02 PM EST

"...in these cases, programming is art."

Well yes, "in these cases". But a much better way to phrase what you mean is "programming can be art". And if that was the claim under discussion, I'd have no problem. Trouble is, the actual claim is that "programming is art" which is simply false.

Worse, the "art" doesn't come from the act of programming in your examples. For instance, the art in your pianola example is the music itself, not the program that generates it. Imagine I have a midi file containing a Bach prelude AND a pianola roll of the same piece. I play them both. Now I ask a reasonable person: "How many different pieces of art have you experienced?" They will reply "Two instances of the same piece." That's because neither the computer file nor the paper roll are art--the music itself is the art. And music is not programming.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
how the verb "to be" breaks communicatio (none / 0) (#47)
by sayke on Fri May 11, 2001 at 06:05:49 AM EST

please, oh please, read this. please?


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

And we have contact! (none / 0) (#50)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:12:04 AM EST

me: ...in these cases, programming is art.
you: Well yes, "in these cases". But a much better way to phrase what you mean is "programming can be art". And if that was the claim under discussion, I'd have no problem. Trouble is, the actual claim is that "programming is art" which is simply false.
Exactly! Show me where I've ever asserted that all programming is art. I haven't. All I've been doing is attacking the assertion that programming can't be art by means of demonstrating that some programming is art.

[ Parent ]
What about style? (none / 0) (#66)
by Wayfarer on Mon May 14, 2001 at 08:33:40 PM EST

Look at it this way: A novel is art. But what is the artistic part? What the novel says? Or the actual syntactic parts: nouns, verbs, paragraph breaks, etc? I say it's the meaning of the novel, not the nuts and bolts of how it got on paper and into my hands. But, with the exception of one part, "nuts and bolts" is all programming is. And that last one part is the abstract algorithm--which is generally a "platonic" object that wasn't created by a human and therefore has no artistic merit.

It seems as if the novel is composed of two (and only two) parts in this example: semantics and syntax. In my opinion, this ignores something that I like to call "style".

In both writing and programming, There's More Than One Way To Do It. Writing and programming are not simply methods of translating a mental concept into a more accessible form; there is also a transcriptional component in which the author must make (sometimes subconscious) decisions about form and structure in the target medium. These considerations can be appreciated by others as having artistic qualities, despite a lack of artistic ambition on the part of the creator or an agent who intends the piece as "art".

It is for this reason that Prof. Bill Arms in the CS department here at Cornell believes that the phrase "software engineering" is a misnomer; programming is not a mechanical process governed solely by standardized principles. There is a certain aesthetic that allows us to say that program A is a terrible kludge, whereas program B is a decent hack, without someone explicitly asking us to judge them. Indeed, two different people may have two (or more!) different opinions as to what is right or wrong about a given solution, indicating a lack of an absolute right or wrong--a quality that suggests that there is a personal element at work here.

Therefore, I must disagree with the strong view of the criterion that art must be intentional. Although I by no means believe that all accidents are art, stylistic considerations dictate that the definition of a piece as art may ultimately rest with the audience.



-W-

"Is it all journey, or is there landfall?"
-Ellison & van Vogt, "The Human Operators"


[ Parent ]
You forgot something (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by slaytanic killer on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:15:08 PM EST

There remains one question you need to answer before you have a complete response. Is paint art?

Paintings generally fit any reasonable standard of art, but we're talking about code here and not the products of that code. Is a brushstroke art? An algorithm?

Now, if you argue that programs are art, I'm sure you'll find less resistance. I have not made art of a program yet, except for one or two simple games that I sold commercially. But I study the techniques and curiosities of the form, as a painter learns his pigments, so that one day he forgets what a pigment is and simply creates.

Reminds me of the note scrawled on an MIT medialab blackboard -- "Art is not a mirror. Art is a hammer." When art hits you, you'll know it. When I create art, which I will, I'll tell you.

Speaking of the MIT Medialab (none / 0) (#61)
by mvw on Sat May 12, 2001 at 07:02:21 PM EST

Reminds me of the note scrawled on an MIT medialab blackboard -- "Art is not a mirror. Art is a hammer." When art hits you, you'll know it. When I create art, which I will, I'll tell you.

I think John Maeda's work qualifies as art. Try his Medialab applet or his various Shiseido applets for example.

See his bio for the Medialab.


Regards, Marc
[ Parent ]

Show me. (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by i on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:17:44 PM EST

I know of specific examples of beatiful theorems and beautiful proofs. (Find one in my last diary entry -- no kidding. Can post more by request.) I'm confident that there must be beautiful code that deserves "this is art" label. I just never saw a line of such code. Could you post some?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

not again (2.33 / 6) (#14)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:48:25 PM EST

Mathematicians do, however, consider theorems and certain proofs to be beautiful. Why? In one word: elegance.

However creatively you contruct and order the propositions in a theorem, once you get to the QED the theorem is completely, objectively understood. There is no similiar, single eureka moment in art. It varies in time, place and person -- often the same person.

A friend of mine who is a professional oboist refers to a certain oboist of a famous orchestra as sounding like a foghorn. I, however, cannot appreciate this detail. However, she can't appreciate the elegance of, say, the Riemann Mapping Theorem.

Everyone who is not tone deaf can listen to your oboist and experience the sound as art. By contrast, a physicist's paper describing the movement of sound waves from the oboe to the human ear is not art, no matter the physicist's experimental and mathematical ingenuity.

The only people who can understand the Riemann Mapping Theorem are the people who can understand the Riemann Mapping Theorem. Furthermore, math is not dependent upon the rational or psychological history of its audience for it's singular meaning. Art varies according to that history.

There are many things wrong with your essay. Principle amongst them is a refusal to admit that art is subjective where mathematics is objective. Code is computation is math is objective. You are merely assigning the programmer's creative process to the code he produces. Why dont you do the same with water diviners? Are wells art? Horoscopes have a greater claim to art than code does.

Code is the application of a formal system with exactly one interpretation. When some future archeologist unearths a Linux driver, he will call it an artifact of computing, not art. The best you can hope to accomplish is a demonstration of live coding as performance art. When the Met has a live cubicle monkey on display, it will be art. As soon as cubicle monkey goes to the bathroom, it will be a cubicle.

---
God hates human rights.

I am tone deaf. (2.00 / 1) (#16)
by i on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:54:36 PM EST

Likewise, there are people who are math deaf. You have your art, and I have mine (thanks iGrrrl).

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
what is wrong with this sentence? (none / 0) (#18)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:59:02 PM EST

Your code may be art but my code is farming. A farmer will correct me is what is wrong.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

I'm not a farmer, but . . . (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:23:41 PM EST

I fail to see how whether or not your code is really farmwork has anything to do whether someone else's code is art or not.

Consider any claim about an object being X.

Person 1: My coding is X.
Person 2: If your coding is X, my coding is farming.
Person 1: ?

[ Parent ]

Have you seen jin wicked's site? (none / 0) (#44)
by delmoi on Thu May 10, 2001 at 08:24:35 PM EST

I took a look around. If only 'artists' are qualified to determine what art is, she is most certainly not. Unless simply claming to be an artist, in which case, we can all make such a claim.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Your contrast is contradictory (4.83 / 6) (#21)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:08:38 PM EST

Everyone who is not tone deaf can listen to your oboist and experience the sound as art. By contrast, a physicist's paper describing the movement of sound waves from the oboe to the human ear is not art, no matter the physicist's experimental and mathematical ingenuity.
In other words, everyone can listen to an oboist and experience the sound of art except for those that can't. By Contrast, everyone can read a physicist's paper and experience reading art, except for those that can't.

I don't personally see any real distinction.

There are many things wrong with your essay. Principle amongst them is a refusal to admit that art is subjective where mathematics is objective.
Actually, what I think is going on here is that some people refuse to follow the statement that art is subjective to it's logical conclusion. What you have is an elitism by established fields of art that do not comprehend other fields of art and come to the conclusion that those new fields can't be art. This is, essentially, a rejection of the very notion that art is subjective and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Also, I don't think that the original finding of any given expression of a theorum is any more (or less) objective than the original painting (or other creation) of any other form of art. We might as well say that all music boils down to physics and that all painting boils down to chemistry.

[ Parent ]

an infinite number of pentiums ... (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:18:08 PM EST

will interpret code in exactly the same way. No two people will interpret the same artwork the same way. Code is rigorous, formal, objective. Art is subjective.

In other words, everyone can listen to an oboist and experience the sound of art except for those that can't.

Assume they can listen just as I assume they have eyes to read the physical paper.

By Contrast, everyone can read a physicist's paper and experience reading art, except for those that can't.

They experience science. Is science also art? Programming = art = science = economics = philosophy = history = a rather small dictionary understood by a rather shallow humanity because they cannot classify knowledge according to its interpretation, discovery or creation.

I don't personally see any real distinction.

Well, art is not understood or discovered through induction. That makes induction a useful property for the set of artworks vs. the set of scientific papers.

Actually, what I think is going on here is that some people refuse to follow the statement that art is subjective to it's logical conclusion. What you have is an elitism by established fields of art that do not comprehend other fields of art and come to the conclusion that those new fields can't be art. This is, essentially, a rejection of the very notion that art is subjective and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

You are merely inventing new classes (beauty) to confound classification. Unless you refuse to classify things on some order of principle, objective things differ from subjective things in their meaning. Code is 100% objective in its meaning, as are theorems.

Also, I don't think that the original finding of any given expression of a theorum is any more (or less) objective than the original painting (or other creation) of any other form of art.

There is a property of art that no code shares. Art has meaning in its observation, neither code nor theorems share this property. No two observers can disagree with what a piece of code does any more than 2 pentiums can. Therefore code is not art. You cannot disagree with this, you can only define different criteria for set *intersection*. How does that do away with the 2 original sets? It doesnt.

Simply put, at what point is code subjectively interpreted by a machine? At no point, by definition.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

what I think you are missing (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:37:27 PM EST

will interpret code in exactly the same way. No two people will interpret the same artwork the same way. Code is rigorous, formal, objective. Art is subjective.
You make the analogous disanologous by attempting to have a processor take the place of the human observer. To keep the comparisson anologous we have to say that an infinite number of lightwaves reflect off a piece of art the same way and therefore art is object, or that processors are not the only observers of source code.

Come to think of it, very few processors understand source code at all. For that matter, seldom does source code only have the pupose of offering instructions to a processor. A hand made bowl can have more than one purpose: it can be made to be pleasing to the eye as well as made to hold soup. Source code can also be written to be pleasing to the eye as well as to move bits and bytes.

On the oboe analogy

Assume they can listen just as I assume they have eyes to read the physical paper.
Not everyone that hears an oboist (even excluding those who are tone deaf) will have the same opinion of whether or not the noice coming forth is art. The first time my dad heard the Dead Kennedys, he opined that it wasn't music, but noise. Many occidental cultures think that the music of many oriental cultures is crude and irritating. I'm sure that that many times the reverse is also true.
They experience science. Is science also art? Programming = art = science = economics = philosophy = history = a rather small dictionary understood by a rather shallow humanity because they cannot classify knowledge according to its interpretation, discovery or creation.
What you are saying is that no scientific papers show any difference in the level of skill in which they are written. No physicists that write papers are more or less skilled in expressing their thoughts on physics in prose.

I find such an assertion to be absurd.

No two observers can disagree with what a piece of code does any more than 2 pentiums can. Therefore code is not art. You cannot disagree with this, you can only define different criteria for set *intersection*. How does that do away with the 2 original sets? It doesnt.
Two observers can, however, whether a piece of code solves a problem elegantly or obtusely. They can also disagree on whether the code solves the problem at all.
Simply put, at what point is code subjectively interpreted by a machine? At no point, by definition.
True, as mentioned before, a machine is not an observer.

[ Parent ]
human observer is my point, actually (none / 0) (#34)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:00:56 PM EST

You make the analogous disanologous by attempting to have a processor take the place of the human observer.

cc -S foo.c

No two humans can misunderstand what the assembly output means. foo.c and foo.S mean the same thing. They are translations of the same formal exercise. I am simply trying to explain that once code is understood, its meaning is exhaustive. See also my last sentence in this post.

What you are saying is that no scientific papers show any difference in the level of skill in which they are written. No physicists that write papers are more or less skilled in expressing their thoughts on physics in prose.

I find such an assertion to be absurd.

Be fair, I never claimed that scientific evidence was a rigorous, formal system. I simply claimed it was not art according to the property of "inducted things."

Two observers can, however, whether a piece of code solves a problem elegantly or obtusely.

Without thinking about it, I will admit that the set of elegant things includes code.

At some level, a level that we can usefully comprehend, code and art will differ. Why shouldnt they? Lots of things differ.

Not everyone that hears an oboist (even excluding those who are tone deaf) will have the same opinion of whether or not the noice coming forth is art.

That's commensurate with its subjectivity in meaning. I may not understand pascal but foo.pas has meaning (well, useful meaning. Lets not become overly philosophical about things we can neither experience nor perceive) outside my understanding as can be verified by running foo.pas on 2 machines and comparing the output. The output will not differ.

True, as mentioned before, a machine is not an observer.

That is the point. The meaning of code exists independently of an observer. All that is required is a formal 'machine.'

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

title for a response (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:09:55 PM EST

True, as mentioned before, a machine is not an observer.
That is the point. The meaning of code exists independently of an observer. All that is required is a formal 'machine.'
By the same token, the formal meaning of any object of art exists independantly of an observer.

I can type a letter to my mother. Such is hardly art. I can write the same letter in caligraphy and it is now art, irrespective of content. I can rewrite the same letter using artistic skills and turn it into art while it exists only in electrons. The formal meaning is the same for all three versions of the letter. Yet, some forms are considered to be art.

[ Parent ]

aha! code vs its form (none / 0) (#39)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:40:34 PM EST

By the same token, the formal meaning of any object of art exists independantly of an observer.

By definition, subjective meanings exist in your mind. Their meaning (and therefore existence) varies according to mind. Formal systems, like Boolean Algebra, for example :-), are understood the same way in every mind and suitable machine. Indeed, machines understand Boolean Algebra better than minds, as it turns out.

Regarding the form of your letter, yes, assuming by form you mean appearance, your letter can certainly be art. But if you make form your set criterion, I will simply point out that form has meaning and that meaning differs from formal system according to objectivity.

In other words, if you paint foo.c, have it read by an OCR scanner and executed on a machine, the painting foo.c will be art but the code foo.c will not be art.

Now, I am not EM or streetlawyer but I think you can understand where I am coming from.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

My last attempt (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:49:02 PM EST

If you don't understand what I'm trying to convey this time, I'm giving up.

The file foo.c is more than a file read by a compiler. The file foo.c means something to a programmer independant of whether or not it does to a compiler. The file foo.c can make a programmer laugh or cry depending on the quality of code. The file foo.c can make an epiphany go off in the head of a programmer reading the file.

That foo.c is also readable by a machine is irrelevant to the question of whether or not foo.c is art.

[ Parent ]

Formal systems mean something, lee. (none / 0) (#41)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 04:06:36 PM EST

The file foo.c can make a programmer laugh or cry depending on the quality of code.

Lee, it doesnt matter. Art, by definition of subjective, cannot be interpreted by a machine; code, by definition, can. This is how they differ. You cannot wave this difference away. Again, beyond your laughing and crying, foo.c has a singular, objective meaning. You have merely decided to ignore this meaning in order to make code as art.

Most people dont laugh or cry at code because the basis for judging code is not objective formalism; objective formalism gets in the way of most people's appreciation for code as art such that they would sooner laugh when tickled and cry when exposed to raw onions. I have never felt emotion at looking at code, for example. I may have felt emotion during its development. I admire code for various reasons, actually. But that doesnt make it art because code has an objective, unambiguous meaning as well as closure thereof which art does not and cannot have.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

code = art when machine = ai (none / 0) (#42)
by eLuddite on Thu May 10, 2001 at 04:42:24 PM EST

Art, by definition of subjective, cannot be interpreted by a machine; code, by definition, can. This is how they differ.

And will continue to differ until such time as machine attains consciousness (required to be subjective) and cognition (required to discern the various forms of art.)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

guh. counterexamples are sooo easy... (none / 0) (#46)
by sayke on Fri May 11, 2001 at 05:54:05 AM EST

might as well pick up where lee left off... heh. parse this:

art, by definition of subjective, cannot be interpreted by a machine; light, by definition, can. this is how they differ. you cannot wave this difference away. again, beyond your laughing and crying, lastsupper.jpg has a singular, objective meaning. you have merely decided to ignore this meaning in order to make pictures art.

ph00. show me an artistic work, and i'll tell you aspects of it's objective meaning, and tell you how to parse it with a machine.

and please, don't forget: you're a machine too, man. that you're made out of meat does not make you special.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

I think not. (none / 0) (#55)
by eLuddite on Fri May 11, 2001 at 03:32:14 PM EST

show me an artistic work, and i'll tell you aspects of it's objective meaning, and tell you how to parse it with a machine.

You will do no such thing. I'll show you someone else who "parses" it differently. If there are multiple ways to parse something, the word parse doesnt apply in the computation sense. Code can only be parsed one way.

and please, don't forget: you're a machine too, man. that you're made out of meat does not make you special.

Man is also a lot more than a machine -- that's why art isnt code. Until such time as you can prove 100% determinism in man, dont remind me that I am merely a machine.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

shows what you know =) (none / 0) (#56)
by sayke on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:40:45 PM EST

i said show me an artistic work, and i'll tell you aspects of it's objective meaning, and tell you how to parse it with a machine... but you didn't take me up on that little challange. why not?

you said: You will do no such thing. I'll show you someone else who "parses" it differently. If there are multiple ways to parse something, the word parse doesnt apply in the computation sense. Code can only be parsed one way.

code can only be parsed one way? really? you sure? how sure? because, hey, i've got a file here called "polyglot" that can be parsed (and compiled, where applicable) and ran as ANSI cobol, ISO pascal, ANSI fortran, ANSI c, postscript, shell script (bash, sh, etc), and 8086 machine language. that doesn't bode well for your point.

though that's really beside the point, because everyone (people being custom-built machines) who parses code parses it in a slightly different way then everybody else; same as stuff written in any language, be it written, spoken, gestured, or whatever...

and anyway, code gets parsed in different ways all the time! or have you never compiled the same c with multiple compilers before, and compared the resulting assembler? sheesh.

i said: and please, don't forget: you're a machine too, man. that you're made out of meat does not make you special.

you said: Man is also a lot more than a machine -- that's why art isnt code. Until such time as you can prove 100% determinism in man, dont remind me that I am merely a machine.

nothing "mere" about it, man. being a beautiful, fascinating, absurdly complex machine is nothing to be ashamed of.

heh. and to counterexamplify, until such time as you can prove 100% determinism in machines, don't ontologically seperate yourself from them.

but hey, that's beside the point too, because ya got 2 choices, man: determinism and randomness. it's either/or. pick one, and you're stuck with it and it's implications, but shit, those are your only options. i generally am extremely suspecions of binary oppositions, but i've stared at this one for a while, and decided to call it both useful and descriptive. of course, if you've got any third options, i'd like to hear em, but i think that if you critically examine any third options you'll come to the same conclusions i did.

anyway... what traits distinguish do humans display that "machines" do not? cmon, name some. i dare you. till then, your silence agrees with me in that you see no differences between code and art =)


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

oh, good. A race between what I dont know and (none / 0) (#57)
by eLuddite on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:15:51 PM EST

what you dont know. Or rather, what you refuse to admit despite no evidence for its dispute.

i said show me an artistic work, and i'll tell you aspects of it's objective meaning, and tell you how to parse it with a machine... but you didn't take me up on that little challange. why not?

Why not? Because the basis for your challenge was so nonsensical as to defy its acceptance. I invite you to plumb the meaning of "Remembrance of things Past," "Persistence of Memory" or "The Last Supper" using objective means. You do know what objective means, dont you?

what traits distinguish do humans display that "machines" do not? cmon, name some. i dare you

Consciousness and, currently, cognition. Software is a formal system without either.

In any case, $you can be as much a machine as you want; I've given up trying to make $you human. Here's my challenge to you: write a program to pass the Turing test.

code can only be parsed one way? really? you sure? how sure? because, hey, i've got a file here called "polyglot" that can be parsed (and compiled, where applicable) and ran as ANSI cobol, ISO pascal, ANSI fortran, ANSI c, postscript, shell script (bash, sh, etc), and 8086 machine language. that doesn't bode well for your point.

It bodes less well that you confuse semantics with lexical syntax. That computer languages are so anemic as to pull off this trick isnt an arguement in your favor. Here's a hint: translation doesnt change meaning in computer languages.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

quote me properly, please - and anthropomorphism (none / 0) (#58)
by sayke on Fri May 11, 2001 at 10:29:06 PM EST

i said show me an artistic work, and i'll tell you aspects of it's objective meaning, and tell you how to parse it with a machine. you put forth "the last supper". parsing it with a measuring stick gives us dimensions of 15 x 29 ft (an aspect of it's objective meaning if i ever saw one). there are oodles of other ways i can quite objectively parse "the last supper", and oodles of machines i can parse it with (like eyes and cameras and fingers and radar), but i hope you get the idea.

and as for consciousness and cognition seperating humans from "mere" machines - so you call sleeping people inhuman, right? i mean, they don't display consciousness or cognition, so they aren't officially human any more, right? sheesh. don't you try to think of counterexamples contrary to your positions before putting them forth? i mean, cmon... you had to have seen that one coming...

and as for turing tests - you are aware that the turing test tests for anthropomorphism, and not sentience, consciousness, or cognition, right? you're aware that you have no possible epistological basis for ruling out solipsism, right? you're also aware that the turing test (well, a more rigorious version then the traditional one) gets passed regularly by bots all over the various IRC networks, right?

the original turing test, by making the tester aware that one testee was human and the other was not, imposed unrealistic expectations on the non-human testee. to do the turing test right, the tester must be unaware that the testee is not human; ideally, the tester should be unware that he's involved in a test... and that's what IRC bots do, alllllll the time. it's pretty funny to watch, actually.

you asserted that code is not art because it can only be parsed one way, and i provided a counterexample that can be parsed in seven ways, producing seven entirely different results, with seven entirely different "meanings" (resulting internal representations). i'm not confusing semantics with syntax here. this is quite analogous to a written passage being read by seven different people, resulting in seven different internal representations of the passage.

i fail to see how that nifty trick justifies calling computer languages "anemic"; spoken sentences can be constructed that have multiple meanings depending on which language you interpret them with. although i don't have any examples on hand, surely you agree that this is just as possible with spoken languages as it is with programming languages. shouldn't you call spoken languages anemic, then, too?

and why didn't you address my point about determinism? you seemed to have abandoned your "machines are deterministic and therefore distinct from humans" criteria for distinguishing humans from other machines; why did you do that? will you admit error? =)


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

this thread has potential to outlast the universe (none / 0) (#59)
by eLuddite on Fri May 11, 2001 at 11:09:13 PM EST

Aspects of objective meaning are what code is all about, not art. The meaning of an object of art trancends the material used to create it. Sheesh, I know that. People continue to confuse my statement that code is not art as if it were a statement about the use of code. You surely can use code to create art but the code itself isnt art. And yet, there is no shortage of people will tell me that code is art.

I really do not care to debate what it is to be human any more than I wish to defend human art from an artificial intelligence. The fact of the matter is that I am human and only relate to other humans. When you make machines as humans, I will reconsider my position on art as something that can be understood by a machine.

For the moment and the foreseeable hereafter, I can only relate to the semiotics that come out of humans. I'll entertain your theories as possibilities but until your theories can produce art criticism, code will not be art in my book.

As for determinism, I do not believe that human action is the inevitable consequence of "input." That is what determinism means. If you think you can dismiss the human will so easily, you surely also think the philosophical and psychological criticism leveled at your position is without merit. Well, as much as I cannot compete with your hubris, that is how much I refuse to acknowledge your hubris as proof of determinism.

you asserted that code is not art because it can only be parsed one way, and i provided a counterexample that can be parsed in seven ways, producing seven entirely different results, with seven entirely different "meanings"

Your counter example is no more art than sleight of hand is "magic." The meaning of an algorithm is unambiguous regardless of the syntactical trickery you use in its expression. I simply rewrite the trick code until the meaning becomes clear. No meaning is lost or added during the translation.

The internal representation of 2 pieces of code is still bound by the language and the system of inference in your formal system. Art isnt. Until you make art a formal system, I reserve the right to ignore your optimism.

Anyway, this code as art debate isnt going to be solved at the end of this thread. I'd prefer that levelled your best criticism in my diary entry (read it first.) And take the damn poll!

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

ok, let's kill this thread and work with the diary (none / 0) (#60)
by sayke on Sat May 12, 2001 at 03:55:49 AM EST

but i don't like asserted definitions. have you read this? if, please, oh please, do so. please.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Ah (none / 0) (#75)
by kubalaa on Mon May 14, 2001 at 11:28:48 PM EST

I just realized your hang-up. The "artistic", subjective meaning of code needn't have anything in common with the "objective" meaning assigned by a computer. As someone has already pointed out, the computer does not assign any "meaning" to code whatsoever, it merely operates on it as it would with any other data. The bits in the computer can represent code or writing or a painting or anything else. The code, and the painting, and the writing, still exist outside of the computer for people to interpret in their own ways.

We created code with a rigorous grammar to make the crudest levels of meaning clear, but art easily operates at higher levels. If I can write satirical code, or humorous code, or aesthetically pleasing code, or depressing code, or inflammatory code, then code is art.

[ Parent ]

/dev/random (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by delmoi on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:39:40 PM EST

Prove that there is 100% determinism in a computer program.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Okay, this one is /really/ my last attempt (none / 0) (#51)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:09:25 AM EST

I responded in your recent diary

[ Parent ]
Ok (none / 0) (#70)
by delmoi on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:33:28 PM EST

Lee, it doesn't matter. Art, by definition of subjective, cannot be interpreted by a machine; code, by definition, can.

The code is not 'interpreted' by the machine, it is run. No fundamental understanding is going on inside the chip. All it's doing is changing the circuit paths so that different operations are carried out.

The only thing that ever 'interprets' the code, or 'understands' it is a human or another piece of software.

Claming that source code isn't art because computers use it is like claming that music isn't art because it's used by MIDI hardware, or by my stereo.

Of course, there are innumerable differences between paintings and code, just as there is between music and writing.

Now, here's the important thing

You claim: Art, cannot be interpreted by a machine; code, by definition, can.

If code is art, that definition of art can't be true. So, it can never be used to prove that code is not art

--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Uh....you can scan photos/paintings (none / 0) (#73)
by Vermifax on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:44:01 PM EST

You can record sound. Computer programs exist which interpret this sound. The computers do not grasp the art, but the can certainly interpret the media of the art.
- Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
[ Parent ]
um, what? (none / 0) (#69)
by delmoi on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:20:39 PM EST

No two humans can misunderstand what the assembly output means

Yeh, right....


--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
An infinite number of penitums (none / 0) (#68)
by delmoi on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:18:51 PM EST

Will thrown an infinite number of invalid instruction exceptions, because computers deal with machine code, not source code. Source code is for people, and its quality is subjective.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
You Sir, are not a physicist (5.00 / 3) (#63)
by mvw on Sat May 12, 2001 at 07:22:34 PM EST

By contrast, a physicist's paper describing the movement of sound waves from the oboe to the human ear is not art, no matter the physicist's experimental and mathematical ingenuity.

You Sir are not a physicist. There are of course writings in the physical community that send shivers down the spine.

  • Richard Feynman's introductory lectures are not praised for nothing among the physicists and even non-physicists.
  • Lew Davidovitch Landau's theoretical lectures are unique. Few feel not enlightened by them.
  • Albert Einstein's papers on special and general relativity are a must read. He even wrote versions for non physicists that are amazing.

The same holds for many mathematicians, whose works are still issued today. For example take David Hilbert's and Richard Courant's books on mathematical physics.

Your sound wave example is likely to be found in one of Feynman's books or Einstein's book on physics for the general public.


Regards, Marc
[ Parent ]

Art is not the word we should be using. (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by John Milton on Thu May 10, 2001 at 05:42:26 PM EST

The word everyone is dancing around here is creative. Art is too subjective and personal to have any real meaning. There are some words that exist more in connotation than denotation. God, Love, Art, etc.

Is a poem art? How about a music video? To me, art is painting digitally or traditionally. I know that for some people art would hold all of the aforementioned. All of these activities share one thing in common. They are creative activities. It doesn't matter if they are art, because art really doesn't mean anything that we can get a mental hold on.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Good programming (none / 0) (#62)
by mvw on Sat May 12, 2001 at 07:10:28 PM EST

I would consider good graphics programming an art as well. See my post on John Maeda below, for a CG/graphical design approach, or take a game designer like Peter Molyneux (Populous, Syndicate Wars, Dungeon Keeper, Black and White,..).

On the other hand I consider language designers like Wirth or Stroustrup artists too. Aren't they meta literates that give expressivness to program authors?

And did I mention web designers and web site programmers already? Some very, very good stuff is done here.


Regards, Marc
[ Parent ]

I think I mentioned computer graphics. (none / 0) (#64)
by John Milton on Sun May 13, 2001 at 01:00:51 AM EST

I agree. Good graphics programming can be art. I loved some of the old snes games, because of the artwork involved. Final fantasy is an example I can think of. I also have B&W. It is definitely art to me.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
Simple experiment. (3.62 / 8) (#48)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri May 11, 2001 at 06:15:53 AM EST

Please bury 3 meter deep the following:

-A copy of Ulyses by James Joyce (tranlslations in 3 or 4 different languages to make sure somebody can read it).

-1 easy playable recording of something by Beethoven, The Beattles, or The Spice Girls.

-One sculpture by Rodin.

-One video showing people dancing (ballet, hawaiian or tribal african, the style is immaterial).

-A playable version of "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang.

-A series of photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo.

-The paintings in the Altamira Caves.

-Something by Dali, Picasso, Rivera, or your favorite painter.

-The piece of code, in any programming language, that elicits the most extatic feelings in your persona. That piece of code that will speak to generations to come about the nature of being human, about how in spite of differences in culture, religion or time we can recognize what makes us and others humans through that piece of genial code. What would that be? The source code for Perl? The source code for C? The source code for Doom? C'mmon, give me examples.

Lets dig all this stuff up in lets say, 300 years.

Lets see what people would recognize as art.

I rest my case.



Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
Dig up (5.00 / 4) (#67)
by delmoi on Mon May 14, 2001 at 08:58:51 PM EST

If a blind man dug that stuff up, I don't think he would consider the paintings to be art. If a deaf man did, I don't think he would appreciate the music. And if someone who wasn't a coder saw the code, they probably wouldn't consider it art either.

I say that art is art if it's art to one person. Can you prove me wrong?
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
nothing is anything else! i reject your premise! (5.00 / 15) (#49)
by sayke on Fri May 11, 2001 at 06:38:19 AM EST

cease this semantic foot-shooting! stop the verb "to be"'s unholy reign of confusion! this entire debate (and others of it's ilk) stems from a simple, incredibly convienient, delusion: that something can "be" something else. this is elegantly detailed in this paper, which introduces something called "e-prime". e-prime can be described as "english without the verb 'to be'". i try to use it whenever i remember to do so ;)

i think that by rephrasing jin wicked's original question without the verb "to be", we can greatly simplify matters. let's give this a shot: "programming has little in common with what i call art"... or, maybe, "programming displays few of the traits that i associate with art"... doesn't that sound clearer now? by phrasing it that way, it becomes clear that jin wicked calls some things "art" if they display certain traits, and if they don't, she calls them something else. among other things, this undoes the dangerious "monopoly on truth" spirit of asserted definition, by putting the question back where it belongs: in reference to jin wicked.

so, we gotta figure out what characterizes what jin wicked calls "art", and see if programming displays those characteristics. well, let's see here: creativity (and what characterizes that? pshaw) looks like once such trait, as does, well, uselessness (non-utility; non-functionality; un-necessity, whatever). aesthetic beauty looks like another. it also seems that jin wicked would calls things art if they were created for no express purpose; as ends unto themselves; i'll file that under "uselessness". it looks like she draws a line between artistic vision and practical need, and implies a binary opposition between them. eep! that made me damn suspicious right there, but let's not deal with that right now.

well, alright, so far so good. we've got some characteristics; let's see if programming displays em:

  • creativity: does anyone here seriously say that programming does not require creativity (however you use the term)? if you say that, lemme know how you use the term in your response... i doubt it will resemble the common usage very much.
  • uselessness: all i have to do for this one is point to the obfuscated c contest... not to mention that "i intend this work to aesthetically please it's perceivers!" sounds like a "use" to me. i don't see how something intended to be beautiful can be called "useless". sheesh. not only that, but people design art to convince, persuade, piss off, disgrace, and do all kinds of other things, so this criteria sounds like bunk to me.
  • aesthetic beauty: again, i can point to the obfuscated c contest, quines, the 5k contest, or the python language in general ;)... so you may not "get it" when you look at these; do you "get" dada? you sure? how could you tell? what a morass... and, more to the point, would you "get" umberto eco's (or james joyce's, or $AUTHOR's) works if you didn't speak any of the languages they were written in?
well shit, it looks like programming displays the same characteristics as what jin calls "art" does. that doesn't bode well for her point. however, i may very well have missed some. you're quite welcome to point out characteristics of art that programming does not display. i encourage you to do so, and i wish you the best of luck, but i think any attempts to do so will fail.

see, i think of works of art as programs, programmed by artists, and run on people. sure, they are written in all kinds of languages, to be parsed and compiled with all kinds of exotic things, like pianos, computers, people's voices, paint, paper, canvas, and large rocks, but their real target platform is PeopleOS. when run (aka percieved), they are intended to trigger a certain kind of output (aka audience response) from that which they run on. extensive debugging is often needed, but next to impossible due to the nature of some languages (like sculpting). some of the languages are horribly documented, but quite a few have good tutorials. some of the programs made with these languages are only designed to be run on their creators; perceived by nobody else. some of them are designed to be run on as many people as possible. they vary widely.

hah! my discipline subsumes and contains yours! take that, elitist bastards! ;)

i think many people working in traditionally artistic fields feel challanged and usurped by the power that coders, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, and other magi now wield. not only can we make beautiful things, we can make beautiful things that go (!), and some of them go in really odd, interesting ways, and do really fascinating things... and i think some of the people working in traditionally artistic fields interpret our (yes, i acknowledge the us/them polarization there; i use it for rhetorical effect) power as a threat to their tribe's monopoly on the creation of beauty, and are shaking in their boots.

or maybe that's just my counter to jin's misguided little attempt at psychoanalysis ("When you spend the bulk of your time creating something, of course we need to feel that it has been worthwhile, and not simply wasted effort"). heh. regardless, i don't think it's useful to rant about how various things are or are not programming, or are or are not art. i would greatly prefer you to get out and make/do cool shit, and in general h4x0r the world into more interesting, beautiful place. kapeesh?

[ps - i reposted this as a slightly modified version of the original, which can be found here. you might call it bad form to repost; if so, i apologize and promise to preform the appropriate penance. regardless, i got tired of seeing a simple semantic error cause so much havoc, and decided to repost. now ya know.]


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */

emotion (none / 0) (#74)
by kubalaa on Mon May 14, 2001 at 11:06:41 PM EST

Okay; I believe that code, like English, can convey both artistic and unartistic messages. I also believe that we should judge art on its expressive power; there are some things which only code can express, therefore code can function as art.

But, to play devil's advocate, I think that most people judge art on its ability to evoke an emotional response. There does exist purely intellectual art, but I think it sneaks by only by emulating the forms of emotional arts. Can code really evoke a powerful emotional response?

[ Parent ]

crying over spilled paint (none / 0) (#77)
by sayke on Tue May 15, 2001 at 04:25:31 AM EST

when i come across a poignant work of art, i generally respond with some combination of the following (others happen, of course, but these are the ones that stick out at me as i write this):

  • "wow. beautiful."
  • "damn. impressive."
  • "guh. repulsive."
  • "bleh. cliche."
  • "hah! funny..."
  • "what the... confused."
  • "how did he/she/it do that?"
  • "errrr, so?"
  • *maniacal laughter*
  • "fuck you, too!"
i can safely say i've experienced all those emotions in response to music, literature, code, and cinema. i can't say i've experienced all of those emotions in response to interpretive dance, figure skating, syncronized swimming, sculpture, or opera. please note that i'm not saying it's impossible to do so - if you know of any opera that will leave me no choice but to respond with a hearty "fuck you too!" then lemme know... but i don't think it's gonna happen.

so what's my point? code seems to elicit a different class of emotions then, say, opera does, but so do pottery, jazz, glassblowing, and poetry... to say nothing of the myriad substyles in each of those catagories. regardless, some fields of artistic endeavor elicit different emotions then others, but that doesn't detract from their artistic qualities in the least.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Cease and decist with simple minded grammar flames (none / 0) (#78)
by smokedjam on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:25:19 AM EST

Please! Get to the message! Interpret! Rub your brain cells together!

This is a page for discussion. There are other places where you can discuss grammar. This place is for semantics. It is desireable that we seek meaning! You are getting to be redundant! I am calling you trivially irrelevent!

Your post was posted once. Posting this twice is redundant. Links are more appropriate. Doing this is indicative of obsession.

Really, this is some silly little crusade.

I is now finished with my post.

[ Parent ]

ambiguity feels so unaesthetic in times like these (none / 0) (#79)
by sayke on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:30:24 AM EST

what gives you the right to say what anything "is"? who gave you a monopoly on truth? i mean, hey, feel free to assert all you like, but don't expect people to take you seriously...


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Now thats a good point :-) (none / 0) (#80)
by smokedjam on Tue May 15, 2001 at 10:20:46 AM EST

I _do_ put my particular truth out there. I am not terribly worried, because I hope that there is an implied disclaimer that if I am proven false, I can absorb new truths. I love the gathering of truths, facts, even fuzzy knowledge.

I offer these snippets of information, which you label as truths, I'll call either theories or facts. Facts are a common base of understanding, ie., 1+1=2, sometimes ultimately unproveable, but generally accepted. Theories are offerings of an understanding which I will cast out into the world of discourse, hoping to catch either approval, or disapproval, and in the case of disapproval, a possibility of a new fact or theory with which to build even more new facts and theories. Its a marvelous thing, this gathering and sharing of knowledge. Occasionally there will be the occasional syntax error, and I guess I will reluctantly accept that this role of correcting syntax goes to you. Congrats. However, links to your origional 'rule of discourse' would possibly save diskspace. But admittedly, only in my world, in yours, there may or may not be any such thing as diskspace, or the act of 'saving', or quite possibly the concept of possibility itself :-D

You know, learning, and all that. Let me ponder deeply about living without facts, a world devoid of knowledge, a universe where everything is fuzzy and nothing is true or false, or even exists. Ok, I'm done. Anything else? :-)

--
Yes, I know, arguing for a newtonian existance amongst a buncha quarks, but I'm old fashioned that way.

[ Parent ]

When will people realize... (3.62 / 8) (#52)
by kaitian on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:51:25 AM EST

that all of this stuff that they call "art" are just collections of atoms. These collections are no more art than collections of words, numbers, or mathematical symbols.

There is no art.

Nope (none / 0) (#85)
by carbon on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 03:22:21 AM EST

The universe is composed of only atoms and energy, that's correct, but the entire basis of the human way of thinking is of ABSTRACTION and SYMBOLISM. Those are both ways of taking up simplistic pieces and putting them together, making the whole more then the sum of the parts.

Please, stop spouting "there is no art!" before realizing that anything created by humans is going to have this system of abstraction built in. Even your comment consists only of electrons moving around in conduits, and yet it has implied meaning. Thus, responding to me will just continue to prove my point , in a nefariously nifty way :-) Thank you, rant-mode-end.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Define your terms (2.83 / 6) (#53)
by jcw2112 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 12:56:58 PM EST

I have no desire to flame here, but I am terribly tired of this discussion. Pick up a book on aesthetics. The first thing it will do (if it is a useful text) is define art. If you don't define it up front, you can't discuss it. Neither the author of this article nor the author of the piece that inspired it bother to mention how they are defining art. This obviously undermines both arguments and renders them useless for all intents and purposes.

The bottom line here goes back to the age old question: what distiguishes art proper from things that are falsely called art. Tell you what, everyone here who has an opinion on the matter should seek out some of the titles found here: http://aesthetics-online.org/ideas/ae-books.html After that, reflect on your opinion and then return to the debate with some idea of what art is. Until then, just stop. Art is not always what you think it is. Chances are, you don't know what you think it is. And there is good reason to believe that you do not agree with what many others would consider to be the definition of art. You can have no discussion on this topic until you agree on your definitions.

p.s. - I hold advanced degrees in music composition and am a professional programmer. I have never seen a piece of code that was art.

thanks.

j.c.w.



____________________
suck. on. it.

You've Never Seen a Piece of Code That Was Art? (none / 0) (#84)
by gnomon on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:55:10 AM EST

Now you have.

Whether or not it compiles, runs or produces any meaningful result is irrelevant - one may say that the driving force behind this bit of code has tipped away from functionality and towards aesthetics (although not completely, as is apparent by the proper use of parentheses to denote stanza and verse seperations).

Is it code? There is leeway for argument here; I would claim that it is indeed code, in the same way that poetry is English (or Italian or Japanese or whatever language you wish to choose). To paraphrase Hofstadter in "Le Ton Beau de Marot", how many times has your attention been caught by an awkard or unusual linguistic construct inserted simply "for the meter"? With the proper function definitions or (hygienic) macro definition(s), this code might actually execute and produce meaningful output... but that's not the point. We could mount solar cells on Michelangelo's David and make it useful, too.

Is it art? The author certainly seems to have had that goal in mind. I personally find it charming, nifty, and quite a bit more pleasing than the usual doggerel praising computer languages. Does it jibe with the definitions provided by people far more learned than me in the books listed on the page you referenced? Well, given that I've not yet had the time to read or even peruse those books, I can't say.

Geeky? Indubitably. Artistic? Debatably. I would claim that it is. I'd love to hear whether or not you agree.


Note that in general, code is not art, any more than the vast majority of written English (or pseudo-English, given the tenuous grip on spelling and grammar that many people seem to have these days - or has it always been the case?) is poetry or prose of merit. As a programmer, you know this already. The reason I state it is that I am not arguing that all code is art, only that some can be - and therefore a single example is necessary to prove existence.

Also note that I completely agree with your assertion that a proper argument cannot take place without some sound, agreed-upon definitions (I've even argued the selfsame point many times myself). Therefore I intend to borrow a copy of "Reflecting on Art" from the local library tomorrow, if they have it, and come back with a more informed point of view.



[ Parent ]
er... (4.66 / 3) (#72)
by rabbit on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:22:50 PM EST

Not all painters are artistes.
Not all coders are artistes.

Most coders are to the art of programming what
most housepainters are to the art of painting.

Even a housepainter will, once in a great while, do an artful job on the house.

Much of the rest of the time, he's just trying to
make a living. And, that, I think, applies to most
programmers as well.




-- I have desires that are not in accord with the status quo.
the artist is usually dead (4.40 / 5) (#76)
by olescratch on Tue May 15, 2001 at 03:43:11 AM EST

As someone who makes art for a living, I'm incredibly excited that this discussion is happening, because it's exactly the one that's been in the air in the "art community" since Marcel Duchamp's readymades were exhibited in the beginning of the last century. At the risk of sounding hoity-toity, I'd like to put my very expensive graduate art education to work and interject a few points:

-- Almost no one in the "art community" uses this art/not art polarity. The notion that "art" is a quality inherent in objects, or that "artworks" are a certain subset of all objects with clearly defined differences from the other subsets are both ideas that went they way of the dodo about a hundred years ago. [yes, yes, apparently Jin Wicked doesn't know what century it is] I doubt that any of us could find this kind of idea being discussed seriously in any art magazine, or academic/critical setting. Likewise, the ideas "artful," "creative," and "real artist" sound incredibly antiquated to me.

-- What is still being talked about in reference to differentiating "art objects" from other objects is the way they operate in culture; i.e. it's not how it looks alone, but what it does that is the crux.

-- If this is the central issue, then the interpreting of art objects becomes a very important activity.

-- Placing objects in a context of an "art setting" designates them as "art objects" (see Duchamp's readymades, etc.) That the iMac was in a show at MoMA has nothing to do with the computer's style or functionality, and everything to do with MoMA's power to influence the discussion of what gets talked about in an art context.

-- Most living art critics, historians and theorists would argue that the artist's intent in creating a work is nearly completely irrelevent in determining an object's artistic merit. That means that in a public forum, it simply doesn't matter what you were thinking when you made a thing. Utility, aesthetics, symmetry, elegance, creativity, cohesiveness, or beauty in the mind of the artist is irrelevent.

-- Likewise, the interpretation of the person who made the object is only as powerful as the next guy's. The object carries its own weight by the way it operates, regardless of what the artist thinks. At best, when people talk about what the artist intended, they substitute their own (usually incorrect) understanding of what the artist meant.

-- What ultimately matters is how the object is thought of in the public eye and how it is remembered by history.

-- Therefore, what matters is the taste and interests of the people and institutions with the power to speak with authority about art objects in the public eye and to write history. I mean this in both the good (democratic) and bad (heirarchic) ways. What is art and what isn't is decided by consensus, and is subject to all the political and materialistic machinations that go with that.

In the art community, whether or not code (or software, or hardware) is art isn't decided-- either particularly or universally-- by whether the code is efficient, creative, functional, elegant, etc. It doesn't even matter whether the code even works. The code could be random characters typed with reckless abandon by drunk, blindfolded monkeys {which actually sounds pretty cool to me}. Code becomes art when it is placed in that context by those with authority to do so.

Sounds warped, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

An example. By his own admission, Picasso was making lots of mindless work by the end of his career. He felt people couldn't tell the difference between good and bad art and he didn't care. I've seen one of the sculptures he thought was a joke on display at the National Gallery in D.C. (not displayed as a joke but as a serious piece of art). In the end, what Picasso thought, or what his intent was, isn't as important as what the National Gallery thinks. Artmaking is a social activity in which the artist has an important, but minor role.

Another example. I'm relatively certain that right now (if it hasn't already been done dozens of times) someone is using qrpff to make a piece of art. I can imagine the piece in a gallery right now... A video monitor plays marriage proposals and acceptances from the most famous films of all time with the a kid and lady friend's heads digitally placed on the bodies of the actors. On the wall behind the monitor is the qrpff code in big letters. The peice is called "I wish," or something. Now, whether the code makes sense to the audience doesn't mean a thing. (I sure don't understand it) It doesn't even matter whether the artist understands the code, sees how efficient, elegant, etc. it is. All that matters is that the code is placed in a setting and caused to act in certain context. Bam-- this code becomes an art object, and it doesn't even matter who wrote the code or to what end it was written, whether it is expressive, etc.

There are tens of thousands of examples like the ones above.

[These ideas are certainly stated better by the following people: semioticians Roland Barthes and Ferdinand de Saussure, structural theorist Claude-Levi Strauss, poststructural theorists Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, and art critics Clement Greenberg and Dave Hickey]

p.s. This comes from someone who makes paintings using chaotic period doubling bifurcation diagrams as sketches, and is incredibly interested in the weird space between art and more "seemingly" methodological disciplines.

Nice comment (none / 0) (#81)
by smokedjam on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:05:19 AM EST

Especially liked:
  • -- Almost no one in the "art community" uses this art/not art polarity. The notion that "art" is a quality inherent in objects, or that "artworks" are a certain subset of all objects with clearly defined differences from the other subsets are both ideas that went they way of the dodo about a hundred years ago. [yes, yes, apparently Jin Wicked doesn't know what century it is] I doubt that any of us could find this kind of idea being discussed seriously in any art magazine, or academic/critical setting. Likewise, the ideas "artful," "creative," and "real artist" sound incredibly antiquated to me.
I like that. But jin can be excused, she seems to aspire for 'commercial art', ie., art for the sake of pay. Thats clearly an easy classification, ie., either her bills are paid, or they aren't. And she clearly isn't programming.

--
To be, or not to be. There is no is (unless of course you sez there is).

[ Parent ]

The final solution (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by ghjm on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:51:57 PM EST

In order to answer any of these questions, one must first posess a definition of art. Given such a definition, these questions would be easy to answer.

I propose the following definition: "An item can be considered art if and only if more than half of the cost or effort of producing it was dedicated to the pursuit of masturbatory self-congratulation on the part of the creator."

Thus:

  • Paintings: Art.
  • Scupture: Art.
  • Advertising: Not art, except for a few cases where the sponsor lost control of the ad agency.
  • Buildings: Generally not art. Really weird looking buildings might be art. You'd have to look at the cost accounting to be sure.
  • Hollywood movies: The vast majority are not art, except when an actor or director temporarily gains enough leverage to exert "creative control" - in which case art is usually produced. Strangely enough, it would appear that all Adam Sandler movies are art.
  • Independent film: Oh yeah. Art, big time.
  • Software: Linux is, Windows isn't. Ooh, the flames I'll get for this one...
  • The iMac: Probably the greatest example of art in the modern world.

  • Architecture not an art??!? (none / 0) (#83)
    by Ground0 on Wed May 16, 2001 at 09:04:46 AM EST

    Frank Lloyd Wright, Miles Van Der Rowe and others are rolling in their graves right now at that remark! Please, just look at great buildings, how they incompass the feeling of the people of the period, their use of space and beauty combined with usablity. Hell they even include other art in their design - gargoyles are essentially statues!

    [ Parent ]
    CounterPoint: Programming as an artform | 85 comments (74 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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