[Humanist] 26.88 aesthetic computing

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jun 14 22:14:56 CEST 2012


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 88.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (22)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.85 aesthetic computing

  [2]   From:    Henry Francis Lynam <lynamhf at tcd.ie>                      (19)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.85 aesthetic computing


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 17:20:36 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.85 aesthetic computing
        In-Reply-To: <20120613204603.C850B281B27 at woodward.joyent.us>


Daniel:

Thanks very much for the response.  I tried to include the concept of
"maintainability of the code" in my prior response here:

<< I would think that simplicity (finding three step solutions rather than
ten step), servicability (easy to fix when
things go wrong), and readability (easy to view and understand) would be very
important.  These all  have some aesthetic value but I think they're still
very much dependent upon use value as well.>>

I called it "serviceability," though.

The issues that I was trying to get to:

1. Aesthetic computing has to be about the code itself.
2. Aesthetics has traditionally considered use-value a completely separate
consideration from aesthetic value, while aesthetic computing would not be
able to separate the two.  For example, what makes a beautiful hammer
beautiful has nothing to do with how well it hammers, but what makes
beautiful code beautiful always has to do, somewhat, with how well it
works.

I do agree, however, that once we acknowledge that aesthetic computing is
about the code itself, only programmers can judge the aesthetics of code.
 But, only programmers who are capable of understanding an aesthetic
judgment.

Jim R



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 23:43:05 +0100
        From: Henry Francis Lynam <lynamhf at tcd.ie>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.85 aesthetic computing
        In-Reply-To: <20120613204603.C850B281B27 at woodward.joyent.us>


I am enjoying this discussion on aesthetic computing. I think there is a
tendency to look for aesthetics in computer code after it has been
finalised and published. But another source of aesthetics in code occurs
during the creation of the code. Think of a champion cyclist competing in a
major competition. As they compete in stage after stage, their triumphs and
failures create a narrative that is both compelling and indeed artistic. I
think a master programmer pitting themselves against a difficult problem,
creating code, erasing it, refining it, is also involved in an artistic
process. Indeed, this narrative may be more accessible to the
non-programmer than the resulting code. When programmers comment on the
quality of each others code, the creation narrative behind the code is
always an integral part of any aesthetic judgement.  I remember a (possibly
apocryphal) story about Bill Gates coding a version of BASIC for a demo
with IBM without having access to any hardware to test it. But apparently,
when he ran it on the IBM hardware it worked flawlessly first time. In this
example, the aesthetics of the code are not found in the final published
piece of code, but in the challenge of creating working code under
difficult circumstances.

Henry Lynam.





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