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(English) The Art of Coding

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Four years ago a speaker at the Retune Festival in Berlin made me mad. He was talking about the (lacking) creativity in coding. How sad it was that programmers would hack their lines into their machines with the only mission to complete their task. And how much we could learn from literature and the beauty of written art and how much we could gain from interdisciplinarity.

Here are some analogies that pop up in my head every time I think about that weird statement.

Genre

You may prefer a good thriller over a love story because its intricate, it challenges you and you can’t stop reading it. I prefer C++ over any kind of web development language. You have to get used to it, but the scope of action is immense, it’s solid, fast and powerful. Writing web pages bores me to death and I don’t like the fluctuation in web creation tools and libraries. Some may not acknowledge comic books as literature. Well, what about visual coding?

Ingenuity

I school I learned how to plot a storyline. You start with the premise and include turning points and a climax. You don’t have to, but it helps. In university, I learned about design patterns to implement known problems. They can be powerful or misleading, depending on your ability to chose them wisely. What you write, your autonomy and freedom of your expression depends on the task and your job situation. Being a clever writer will either keep up your audience or create a better software. You have to be damn creative to solve issues arising on the way.

Formatting

After writing a book one can spend quite a lot time and money on layout and typesetting. Code appearance is actually one of the early things programmers have to agree on when working together. Parentheses play a big role as well as how to name variables and functions and I would bet my ass that somewhere friendships got destroyed because one was messing up the other ones format.

Commments

// drunk, fix later

Have you read some of Walter Mörs‘ books? Maybe he is not so well known outside of Germany but anyway he introduced a style called Mythenmetzsche Abschweifungen where the fictional author of the book would leave comments about the current storyline or something totally unrelated in between the actual story. Have you read a few source code comments? There is a whole world of stories hidden somewhere in between executable lines. They have no influence on the outcome of the program. They can be placed to explain or document something, but they also hide useless attempts of code and unfinished ideas. They can express rage or amazement, include ASCII art or dialogues between programmers. I once found a hiring offer hidden inside a companies web page source code. Anything is possible.

At the end of the talk, a woman was raising her voice to tell the speaker about how some code could make her team at work laugh all day and about the personality you find in between the lines. He replied: „You can’t say that. That’s not fair.“

That fits to the problem I have [and now I totally digress] about transdisciplinary /interdisciplinary work in art and science. Art was once forerunning utopian scenarios. It is losing ground. Some artists see scientific work as a black box with a job that it should fulfill. It’s not a black box, it’s a beautiful cosmos full of crazy ideas, and if it’s really boxes, they fall over and burn and explode and flourish and pile up and patch. They might be a main source of future art, created by people who put their heads inside these boxes. I would love to see artists and scientists to rattle the cages and comfort zones together as much as possible, but we all have to put our heads inside the boxes once in a while.

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