[PD] Re:[PD][OT] code as material, or is it more...

Hans-Christoph Steiner hans at eds.org
Mon Dec 15 11:38:20 CET 2003

I think most computer languages are designed to bridge the gap between  
human and computer, and I think that this is why they tend to have many  
problems as languages for the expressions of ideas.  When designing  
computer languages, we have reached the point where computers are  
powerful and cheap enough that we can ignore the implementation details  
and just design languages purely for the expression of ideas, _then_  
make those languages control computers.

For me, I see elements of this in SmallTalk, Lisp, and Max/Pd (I am  
sure there are others, but this is from my experience).  These have  
their problems of course, but they have key elements.  SmallTalk and  
Lisp use one basic method of organization and apply it to _everything_.  
  Compare this to C++, where you think about numbers totally differently  
than objects (do you think in doubles, floats, unsigned ints?).  Max/Pd  
do a pretty good job of bringing spatial and graphic elements in,  
expanding the language beyond mere text.

So I'd like to see a language designed purely for expressing ideas  
implemented to run on computers.


On Thursday, Dec 4, 2003, at 14:40 Europe/Brussels, 0 wrote:

> I think that trying to define whether code is art is impossible.  
> Duchamp proved that anything can be art, dependent only on the  
> intention of an artist. So of course code can be art, but it isn't  
> necesarily.
> Code as a material..? In the broad sense of material, I think it is,  
> at least for me. I see code as a means to an end, though of course in  
> reaching that end the code often becomes something that could be  
> perceived as art if presented in a certain context. I usualy call  
> 'code' 'language', as in programming language. This more accurately  
> represents what it is to me; a method of translating human thought an  
> attention to computers, whose main strength and purpose is to process  
> huge amounts of data very rapidly. The ultimate goal of programming  
> languages, for me, is to bridge the gap between human and computer  
> modes of communication. I would hope that eventually computers will do  
> the work of understanding human beings, rather human beings having to  
> learn computer languages--I'm in favor of computers doing the hard  
> work. This way computer and information related art becomes accesible  
> to everyone, rather than being the elitest and arcane field it is now.
> I think PD is an important step in bridging the gap between computer  
> and human methods of communication. PD is one step above an actual  
> programming language, lowering the learning curve considerably. PD  
> also facilitates building interfaces with computers that allow  
> laypeople to create art, say, with the wave of their hand (ultrasound  
> or variable resistors or something), or by saying something into a  
> microphone. For me, the art that is created with a PD media  
> installation isn't the installation itself, but what the audience does  
> with it. Thus the code isn't the material, PD isn't the material, what  
> I create with PD and code is the material that the audience uses to  
> create art. But I will admit that I do perceive what I create at each  
> step is also a kind of art, as is PD, as is the syntax of the  
> programming language itself (isn't what the Romans did in recreating  
> Latin a kind of art, or what was done with Esperanto, or SolReSol for  
> that matter?) So then the material being used is rather the human mind  
> that created all of these things.
> As for commercial art...
>> Proprietary software is not artistic: it's like a recording that you
>> "play" over and over, ad nauseam. (We forgot a lot of rock bands
>> because
>> they were boring "one shot deals"). A proprietary software can be used
>> to
>> express and recreate artistic ideas, but it cannot be a work of art in
>> itself, unless you're kinky enough to appreciate assembler code that
>> can't
>> be modified without being accused of felony...
> Commercial art is still art, it just works on a different aesthetic.  
> Denying the art used to write ProTools, 3DStudio, Photoshop and other  
> genius commercial programs, is denying Andy Warhol and his ideas of  
> pop art. I won't argue that computer art has entirely depended on  
> things like Photoshop, but I definitely believe that computer art  
> would be in a very different place today if Photoshop had never  
> existed. Just because it is commercial doesn't mean that it is not  
> art. Just because The Adventures of Monkey Island or Doom, were sold  
> for money, doesn't mean they weren't great pieces of computer art, and  
> very influential on the world of computer art. Even without us being  
> able to tear them apart and look at their code, they are still valid  
> works of pop art. Sometimes an artist, for whatever reason, wants to  
> keep his/her methods secret ( http://www.4dart.com ). Would you argue  
> that, because you cannot know exactly how Van Gogh used his brushes,  
> his works are not art? So Micro$oft can be art too, even though we  
> base consumers are not privelidged enough to view its haloed code (<-  
> a bit of sarcasm, but it's still true).
> Just a thought or two.
> -Ian
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"[W]e have invented the technology to eliminate scarcity, but we are  
deliberately throwing it away
to benefit those who profit from scarcity."
							-John Gilmore

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