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Games Entertainment

Where Is The Line Between Programmer And Artist? 337

frinsore asks: "What jobs are programmers and what are artists? Game creation seems to have blurred the line between the two. While some fall easily into either side, others don't. Where does the map creator fall? They have to know what the engine can do and how the user can interact with it, they also have to make it look pretty and keep it challenging. What about interface design? Giving users as much access as possible while not overwhelming them with details. Do these people land into one camp or another or are they some where in the middle?" This a difficult question to answer and it entirely hinges on how you define art. For me, a piece of code, or an elegant mathematical proof is as much art as a Picasso, or Beethoven's 5th Symphony. As always, feel free to share your thoughts on this subject.
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Where Is The Line Between Programmer And Artist?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Geeks who see programming as Art (rather than as "an art", which is a very different thing; doctors practice the art of medicine, but that doesn't make them artists) are just pretentious fucks with a painfully overexagerated sense of their own importance.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well, here in slashdot, i cant hear one news from demoscene front , thats is weird, demoscene is about graphics open minded coding, if you want to see some code == art , go to:

    Orange Juice []


    Demonews []

    If you never seen Stash, you can never imagine what you can do in 64kb!

    I want a demoscene slashdot topic-logo !!

  • How many dimensions has the 5th symphony? or Otello?

  • Like many people, I feel that programming, or the example given in the story of an "elegant" mathematical proof, is an artistic expression of the creator only in new means. Programming is merely the artist's expression in a form that hasn't been thought of as a media to create art in until recently. Game and web designers are just a few of the positions in computers that blur the line between art and computing.

    If sculpture and painting are both art forms, why can't painting and programming both be art forms?
  • I don't see this as being a "blurring of the lines," merely a statement that there are some people who are both artists and programmers (just as there are people who are both doctors and musicians - does this mean that somehow they are blurring the lines between the medical and musical fields?). Map creators are simply people who have technical skills and artistic skills, and can apply both simultaneously.
  • I agree with what you're saying, and an example that popped into my head was Leonardo DaVinci. His extensive research on human anatomy was science, not art. While some of his anatomical drawings and sketches might have been creative or beautiful, they ware still not art. However, his rather famous drawing with a male figure inside a circle and a square is indeed art - its end goal was artistic expression.
  • There is an excellent article [] on Gamasutra [] that covers this very issue, detailing the "Art and Science of Level Design". Being artistic isn't enough, and being technical isn't enough - you must be both.

    An excellent read, check it out.

  • Where does the map creator fall? They have to know what the engine can do and how the user can interact with it, they also have to make it look pretty and keep it challenging.

    Something of a nitpick here... Map designers should not be (and these days are not) programmers. My mom has to know what Word can do, and has to know how make documents look pretty and to the point using Word, but she's neither a programmer nor an artist. It helps very much if the map designer knows what the engine can do and what CPU and memory constraints the project is operating under, but that's about it. Just picked a bad example for your point.

  • Look, big picture overview: artists are people who create.

    "All work is creative work if it's done by a thinking mind" said Ayn Rand. I'm reminded of the scene in Atlas Shrugged in which Halley explains to Dagny why he left public life, and goes on to explain why it's foolish for an artist to think that a businessman is the enemy.

  • by root ( 1428 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:16AM (#417141) Homepage
    Programming is not art. It is the modern day equivalent of sorcery. And on the darker side of sorcery too.

    We cast spells (programs) to make inanimate objects (computers) do things. And the images and icons associated with computing are sorcery related. Daemons (note archaic spelling), zombies, ghost jobs, magic numbers, wave a dead chicken, etc. My video card is labeled "trident". Hmmm.

    And magic is about as reliable now as it was back then too. Usually it does what you expect, but sometimes it blows up for no reason; the daemon runs amok leaving a trail of destruction and data loss in its path. The accident can't be reproduced. And the program/spell can never be provably guranteed to do what it's supposed to do, so the users have to just take it on faith. It could happen again. Who knows?

    And sloppy sorcerers eventually end up facing angry mobs with torches and pitchforks. Today these people are the ones calling you on the technical support phone. Hell is still hell. Nothing new here.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • If you look at a painting, or a work of prose, poetry - basically, it's a piece of structured data, designed to cause the viewer's mind to react in a certain way. Not as cut-and-dried as machine code instructions, but still, data goes into the eye or ear, is processed in the brain, compared to other data, and it evokes a response, emotional, intellectual, etc.

    Even your standard basic Maplethorpe photo, or crucifix-in-urine, it's designed to elicit a response.

    A strict basic definition of ART is anything man made. So Programming does, in fact qualify. In that sense, and in my opinion, the sense I elucidated above.
  • "Painting and sculpture, especially all this "avant garde" stuff that consists of nothing more than a few splashes
    of paint on a canvas, don't have anything to do with the world people live in at all. "

    That's so untrue.

    Yes, there is a great deal of cronyism and elitism in the art world today, a lot of ass-kissing and bullshit iconism - in fact, it's been going on for centuries, and the hot new "movements" that arise are almost always based on inconoclasm.

    But just because you look at a piece of art and do not understand it does not mean that it's crap. A lot of it DOES have to do with the world people live in. Sometimes, it's something that's limited to "art people" - that is, if you aren't a trained artist, you won't see what it is this artist was trying to communicate. Same is true for your standard basic Calculus text. (only - that Calculus text, it can be argued, will benefit people who don't understand it; the art wont, and that's what I'm talking about with the cronyism).

    But most good art, can be viewed by most people, and something conveyed. What does a few splashes of paint on a canvas convey to you? Certainly not something worth $50,000 - that's cronyism again, but doesn't it convey the joy you had when you were 3 and first played with watercolors? or a feeling of motion, recklessness? I see where you're coming from - there's definately a lot of "modern" art that's just way overrated (I have a personal grudge against Picasso), but that kind of thing does have a definate value to society.

    Believe it or not, some of the more expensive art recently is coming out of the high-tech arena. Electron micrographs, enlarged and framed - sold to rich dot-commers, or that pay-chair that was on /. last week. It matters to today's rich elite; the rich dot-commer geek.
  • I'd have to tell him he's wrong.

    My first "art" class in college was Art History, and the first item we studied was Venus of Villendorf, which was an earth-goddess statue.

    All art is functional. Sometimes it's just functional as eye-candy. Sometime's it's just fucntional as greed satisfaction for the artist and gallery owner.
  • What if a camera maker designed a camera, with a case of transparent elements so you could see inside to the gear mechanism, to see how well it was designed and built, and how it functions (of course the negative is in an opaque container) -
    then decorates the case with gold and fine polished wood accents, and shapes it so that it is both pleasing to look at and ergonomically functional.

    It's a tool. To be sure. But then the tool is also a piece of art.

    Ever driven a Porsche Boxter? How about a Volvo 1800s. Is it just a car? Or a work of art?

    How about a screen-saver program. Is that a work of art? Or a tool?
  • On the subject of very analytical color theory guys, who were also emotional and passionate, one particular painter stands out. Van Gogh.

    There's the story of his life (-1 ear, suicide, etc.) then there are his paintings, you can tell he learned a lot from Seurat - though they never met.
  • I don't understand the penchant for "artist envy" in society. Everyone wants to say how, in some way, they are an "artist." Even Subway, the sandwich chain, started calling its workers "sandwich artists."

    Look, the point is, we program. We're good at it. It takes a lot of creativity to solve very difficult obscure programming problems. Accept it as a part of life, and accept it as part of the job of a lot of other people to... but be secure in your accomplishments as a programmer and don't feel you have to prove that you're "more artistic than thou."

    • I guess modern dance isn't art, as many people don't "get it".
    I never said anything that would imply this. Modern dance may not be widely appreciated, but many people who do appreciate it can't dance to save their lives (I happen to be one of these people).

    Frequently programmers conflict with PHB's who don't understand the creative nature of programming. That said, this "is programming art" discussion looks like an attempt by people who have centered their entire life on a single pursuit to elevate that pursuit and give it wider implications, just to enrich their egos.

    • artists working for game companies need to stop deluding themselves into thinking that they are equal talents to the developers.
    Amen, brother. And on that note, a term that needs to be expunged from use is HTML Programmer.
  • by the red pen ( 3138 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @09:55AM (#417150)
    Oh puh-leez. This is really just a "Programmers: Are we cool or what?" dicusssion. Yeah, programming is cool, but real art appeals to people who aren't artists. If you want to be an artist be an artist. If your self-esteem needs proping up, get therapy.
  • Define "audience" carefully enough and ANYTHING is art.

    Actually maybe that's not a bad thing - the alternative would be to define art by majority opinion. The music industry has shown us what horrors this could bring - imagine whole museums full of velvet Elvis paintings, covered bridges, and flower still-lifes.
  • You can screw up making a sculpture so that it falls apart, or botch up a painting such that it's not recognizable. And you can have code that compiles perfectly and still doesn't do anything right. In both cases, the actual "rightness" or "wrongness" of the work is determined by the audience - neither the clay nor the computer particularly care.
  • by Squid ( 3420 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @11:27AM (#417153) Homepage
    So you're saying something qualifies as art only if it's sufficiently accessible. I guess modern dance isn't art, as many people don't "get it". I guess music isn't art, since some people are deaf.

    OK, that didn't come out quite lucid - I can't help it, I've got the flu and my brain has gone home for the day.

    So let's try that again: sometimes the most meaningful art is the stuff that the average person just won't appreciate. I don't mean abstract splatters either - I mean stuff like Max Ernst, real sick surrealism with depth, the closer you look the more you find. And you're not likely to find his stuff hanging over someone's sofa. No denying it's art, but also no denying it's just a bit inaccessible.

    Programming is akin to literature. Yes, it's 9/10ths mathematics, but well-done code will have an artistic quality - elegant structure will be visible to those with eyes to see it. So not everyone knows how to read source code, not everyone can "read" subtle nuances in a painting either.

    I don't think most code counts as art - but I do think if programmers thought of their code as art, we might see more pride taken in the work, and that would lead to better, cleaner code. It's something I know I try to work toward in my code.
  • Programming (and other mathematical/engineering disciplines) is about building useful structures. The humans doing the building may be partially guided by artistic concerns, but that doesn't make the output "art". The primary purpose is "does it work" not "is it nice to look at" or even "is it elegant."

    I think I will disagree with this one. Though invisible to the untrained eye, I think well-written code or well-designed architecture / functionality has beauty and elegance of its own. I guess it's similar in how literary prose is sometimes considered art.

  • I've worked with code that has provoked an emotional response... (and screaming "WTF? What was he thinking?")
    Art wasn't usually the word that came to mind...
  • Art is about conveying beauty and/or a message to an audience (sometimes just the artist himself).

    And programming is about conveying a message to the machine and to other programmers who have to maintain that message. The message to the machine is, these days, very structured and logical. The message to the other programmers can be artistic and contain beauty in several forms: There's the beauty of the elegant, logical structure, beauty of the clear communication of ideas, and beauty of the novel and suprising solution.

    The primary purpose is "does it work" not "is it nice to look at" or even "is it elegant."

    You've never programmed on a team, have you? :-)
  • My experience from the game industry (I've been working there for about 6 years) is that the artists do the game maps and level designs.

    All graphics artists needs to know a lot about the engines limitations all the time. If you draw textures you need to know about the constraints on textures like:

    1. Max texture sizes (to fit in on a 3Dfx card).
    2. Main memory set aside for textures.
    3. Memory of texture on chip texture cache (limiting number of different textures visible at once).
    4. What different texture formats are available (compressed/uncompressed, with and without alpha channels, colordepth etc) and the advantages/disadvantages between them.
    5. How mipmapping and interpolation affects the visuality.

    And that is just for the texture artist, the 3D artists needs to have a lot more understanding.

    So, as you can see, level/map design doesn't demand so much more in technical knowledge than other artist assignments. But it does demand a LOT in imagination and design to make them fun and playable and that's why we have artists doing them.

    My experience is that programmers too often design maps that they find technically fascinating, but are boring to play ("look! I've made a level that pushes the engine to the maximum no matter where you look, it's always 20.000 polygons on screen, but no more!").

    Btw. I'm a programmer myself, but recognize my limitations in the design department and know that my technical knowledge often gets in the way of my imagination and artistic talents. If you know too much about the underlying architecture you seem to limit yourself.

  • One word is missing in all of this. When something is creative, but not always (or necessarilly artistic), it becomes a Craft.

    To me, programming is a craft, and relies on the same degree of discipline that craftsmen in "hardware" (carpentry, model making, etc) rely on.

    Also, games design does have roles -- its just that in some cases the game implementor maybe taking on more than one role. One role is that of the progrmamer, who takes the 3-D models and designs how they will react to each other on the screen and what it "means" when one fires an anti-tank rocket at the other. The other is the artist who designs the 3d models and the texture maps and how they "move" within themselves, usually using software that some other programmer wrote. With either a really creative individual, or a really tight budget, game companies will overlap roles among their staff, but its still the staff member performing two separate roles -- programming or 3d art.

  • Okay, I'm not gonna jump in on this, but this is incorrect. Any emulator can run a piece of code through to see if it halts... or you can run it on the "programming" on the native environment.

    Tell that to Alan Turing.

    Running the program in an emulator (or 'on the "programming" on the native environment') wouldn't work. How long do you need to run the program before you know that it's halted? If you want a complete proof, go here [], or ask your friendly neighborhood CS professor.
  • I can write a sonnet, and prove that it is correct (ie: a valid sonnet). In fact, I can quite easily write a prigram that can determine whether the input is a valid sonnet or not. Sonnets are quite mechanical. See et.htm [].

    On the other hand, it's imposssible to create programs that prove all sorts of things about other programs. Here's an excercise for you: write a program that takes a program as input, and proves that it halts.

    But that's all moot anyway. Whether a program is 'correct' is at most a required condition of being art; it isn't a sufficient condition. To use the sonnet parallel, a sonnet isn't art just because it follows all of the rules of a sonnet.

    If sonnets, music, architecture and photography are art, then so is programming. Yes, some programs aren't very artful, just as some photos, buildings, boy-band-songs, and the sonnet you wrote in grade 9 probably aren't very artful. Programming does require creativity though, and I've occasionally seen code that I would consider to be "a work of art". Like building or bridges though, code's function genrally overshadows the art hidden within, and sometimes much of the artistry is obvious only to the trained eye, much the way gourmet meals are just "nice food" to someone who isn't a connesouir.
  • I disagree with your concept. To start with if the abstract paint thrown at a canvas from across the room, or the childs crayon scribbles can be concidered art, why cannot anything that is crafted? Does garbage really deserve the clasification of art? What makes good art good? To me if there is some likability to it then to me it might be good, to others good art will be different. But there are certain works that most people will agree is good art. If I make a statment "Boris is a good artist" Most people would agree, some might disagree, but that statement would get a majority that would agree.

    "is it nice to look at" or even "is it elegant."

    I am wondering why a program must be ugly? Why can't a program look good and function correctly. I don't think Microsoft made their billions off of making it work right. They went for the "is it nice to look at" and "is it easy to use". So if you go by "does it work" to make people happy then it doesn't seem to be working since windows still dominates the desktop.

    I write software for users, and the experience level of the users vary greatly from utter idiot to fairly intellegent. I put allot of effort and code into making it easy for the user to get the job done since they expect it to work to start with. But do I spend the extra time making it easy for the idiot to use otherwise I have to try and teach the idiot to be intellegent? I've found making the program easier and nicer looking pleases the idiot more. While the fairly intelegent would have no problem learning how to use the software, they also like it easy to use and learn.

    Programming should be concidered art. Since if it is designed and coded correctly it will be very pleasing to more users. Programs that work but you need weeks to figure it out are not pleasing and are generally thrown away for something that is. One of my personal dislikes of quite a bit of linux software is that to learn it requires vast ammounts of time to figure it all out. Most of the programs lack in documentation beyond a readme file or a man page that was writtin as a reference for someone who already knows how to use it.

    Programming requires more than just simple coding to be good. It requires lots of thought on what would someone besides myself want to do, and how would they want to do it? What would make it easier for the user to get the job done? Would one layout work better than another? If I change this little thing will it make it more clear the concept of what the program is doing? I don't like working for the computer, the computer should work for the user. Because it really all boils down to the fact that the users are the ones who determine what is great and what is not.

    I see lots of very badly written software that companies pay lots of money for. The sad thing is that the programmers never see the users, or talk to them, or even realize they are there. They seem to think they are the maggots that cause them problems. Maybe if more programmers were to take the time and effort to make it a art work then we would have many more programs that are worth having and using.

  • Well said, I've progressed from drawing to painting to music to programming. Although the tools change there is lots of creation involved in all of them.
  • I am a programmer, and I don't have a specific way of doing everything, each program has its own goals and concepts. There are dozens of ways of reaching the same goal most of the time. When a painter paints a picture of a person does it fail to be art because they made the skin color the color of skin? Or since the hair is brown and so many people have brown hair, and painting the hair has been done a thousand times it fails to be art?

    For those people that think in terms of programming as being "just a science" they are the ones who create the mediocre software which is hardly used. Programing is more than a science, at least to those that are creating good programs that are used and liked by someone other than the programmer.
  • I think if you go beyond the "code" aspect, which only the programmers see, there is the art of the program itself. If a game looks good, runs well, and makes people happy then it would be a good game. The programmers succeded in thier job of creating a work that makes the target audience appreiciate their efforts. While I do agree code can be art, the total effect of the code what would be seen by everyone. Very well written code in a very poorly designed interface would not be well recieved by the inteded audience...the users.
  • But is code visible to any but the programmer? Art seems to be the end product of the artist, and as such its the end work that is judged by others. Code to me is the tools used, the canvas the brushes, and the paint. But what would make it art is the resulting program, is the program as a whole pleasing? Does it fullfill the need you had for using it? Is it something you want to use/see again? What I put inside the program is the tool that determins the quality of the program, and as such the program could be art, or just another tool to get by with. I've made both, and to me there is a major difference between art and programs when you remove creativity. But add the creativity and programs can be art.
  • Your making the assumption that creative people are sane. Well, for me thats debatable, but as for programming it was another form of creation (much easier one in fact). Creating a program is the most enjoyable part, the debuging is the work. Which puts the creating as art and the functionality more towards work. But overall, I still love it.
  • define art specifically as that which is _not_ functionally useful, or at least objects for which function is of secondary value.

    Does this make Windows art?
  • by Dogun ( 7502 )
    There was a time when I considered programming an art, because I was told that it was so. I wrestled with that for several years, and saw little or no art in my code, maybe the roots thereof, but nothing more. I came to realize, incorrectly, that it was not an art. I thought then, that it was simply a matter of managing complexity, designing clean interfaces, paint-by-number. In this time, I learned a lot, and I shifted from traditional C to the C++ end of things. And there I stayed, until one day I saw something. I saw that there was something fundamentally wrong in the gung-ho object oriented approach to things. I came to see again the power and complexity that can rise from classic C, and I also saw that C++-style coding had its own major advantages. Except I saw this on an abstract level, and I saw that I had a distinctive style. I played with that idea for months, and came to realize again that there is art in coding: and while some may insist that it is purely about expression of ideas, I see now that it is working within the confines of the language, recognizing the faults in your tendencies, and understanding your own growth. For me, the art is not in the expression. The urge to create, though sated, is not the root of my art. For me, it progresses from change. I learn, and I write... the conversion is almost rote, though by no means skill-less or artless; for me, the greater art is the growth that I experience, the change that programming effects within me. It may seem odd to some, that coding can be more about a personal metamorphosis than a transcription of an idea to a program, but I expect that I am far from alone in this. Is this the true art and beauty in programming? I don't know, nor do I care. In the progression, we grow, and in growth, more becomes evident. So write your code, and write it well. Don't be disillusioned if you don't see something of it yet, those of you just beginning, and those of you who do, I envy your different perceptions. One day, I will find myself.
  • Engineering becomes art when you are using fixed tools to do something that hasn't been done before. Just as painting a picture uses a fixed set of tools (certain colors and brushes) to create something that hasn't existed before.
  • by sacherjj ( 7595 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @09:54AM (#417170) Homepage
    I am a Electrical and Computer Engineer. What I found most interesting attending an Engineering College, was the diversity and great creativity of the better engineering students. Many played music, were great artists, or very accoplished writers. Any type of engineering is an art. You have a fixed set of tools and must create something from those limitations. Programing IS art, when done right. This is the same with a brilliant bridge design or an elegant circuit design. All of these are forms of artistic expresion, IMHO.
  • Day Job: UNIX/Perl Guru/Programmer at Software Company.
    Night Job: Professional Bassoonist in Spokane Symphony Orchestra.

    B.A. in CS from University of Rochester.
    B.M. in Music Performance from the Eastman School of Music.

    You make the call.
  • What makes something art is that it participates in the cultural institutions and practices of art - that we treat it as art, that we have a relationship to it that is primarily aesthetic, that we create a discourse around the practice that is art-based (yes, that even includes whether it gets talked about in ArtForum or whether someone got a grant to do it or something.)

    A lot of things can be aesthetically pleasing - code, buildings (and yes, I think there is architecture-as-art), plumbing, bodies - but there is a difference (with mobility between them) between aesthetically pleasing objects and objects that are designed to be talked about in aesthetic terms.

    Now, like the category "game," I think the Wittgensteinian premonition about fuzziness of categories is appropriate here. I would not pretend to have necessary and sufficient conditions for art. But the basis by which even elegant, inspired programming, programming which reveals leaps of insight and intuition, even - is described by art, is IMHO faulty.

    As a note, I believe that programming can be art in the context of an art-work, or when it is rehabilitated or recontextualized as art. When someone takes code and exhibits it for its aesthetic properties (even if its only to a limited audience that could understand it) or whether they are doing some conceptual art work that involves programming (I have a work on the back burner that is doing that very thing, using tools that many might think the least qualified to be art-like!) then the programming is, indeed, art.

  • Programming is an art form with many different mediums. I wish more people understood that.

    I prefer to think of programming as an art form that fights back.

  • Art is art in the eye of the beholder. Art is certainly very subjective, but just because art is subjective does not mean that anything can fly under the banner of subjectivity, free from any morality. I do agree with the previous poster, insofar as I agree that there are a large number of hacks out there today, that cater more to what is regarded as being "modern", then what either THEY (in my opinion) or the greater PUBLIC (well established) care about. I question the legitimacy of a group of select people that, at worst, appeal just to themselves and, at best, to a select group of so-called artistic elites.

    Even if all of these so-called artists actually _believe_ in what they do, if being an artist is just about pleasing oneself, then what makes the artist any more noble than the guy that literally jerks off all day long? Or the rich playboy? Or what have you...

    This is not to say that I, or any other individual, can sit back and declare decisively what is and what is not art. Rather, it is a legitimate question, designed to make those self-described "artists" question themselves.
  • Its and it's are not interchangable words. What's more, the misuse of such a common word annoys me and others. Clearly if you care about grammar and are incapable of using the correct word, you're either irrational or suffered from a poor education.

    Word to the wise, those in glass houses should not throw stones. Especially when you've got about 50 of them for me to target ;)
  • Holy jamoley!

    I sure hope you're right! Bring on the ladies...


  • After years of programming I'd have to say that all programming is art, atleast in the vein that it is a creative endevor much like writing. It's just that some examples are much better artistically than others. As with all art, some is excelent, some is good, and then you have the trash that is without merrit. By nature, art is in the eye of the beholder. Each observer has his or her own ideas as to what constitutes true art. Nobody is correct, it's all relative.
  • I have seen some programs that have artisic uses (digital recording and graphics programs for example) but a computer program is closer to a camera than a photograph.

    So just what is a fractile landscape generator?

    Can you really say? Who is the artist of what work? Can we separate them out? The programmer as artist of the clever code to generate the landscape, or the user who manipulates the controls to generate a new landscape image?

    You know, some instrument makers are considered artists for the quality of the job they do making the instrument. How would this apply to programmers?

  • On the other hand, it's imposssible to create programs that prove all sorts of things about other programs. Here's an excercise for you: write a program that takes a program as input, and proves that it halts.

    Okay, I'm not gonna jump in on this, but this is incorrect. Any emulator can run a piece of code through to see if it halts... or you can run it on the "programming" on the native environment.

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. A photo can be of a face for mere identification purposes, or it can be of a boat in the sun. Frame the ID, and it becomes art. Use the photo of the boat in a eBay aution, and it becomes functional.

    In the same way, a prgram that solves mazes is very functional. Put up into the Obsfucated C Contest and reviewed with an eye towards the asthetic, and it is art. The RSA code is very practical and functional... arrange it as a dolphin and print it on a T-shirt, and it becomes fashion, a form of art.

    So, if you can't see art in code, either you can't program (and suffer the same as a blind person can't appreciate a photo) or you can't see art in the world (in which case, I feel pity for you).


  • Tell that to Alan Turing.

    I'm sorry, it was said that there was *no* code that can be checked by a program. A program free of loops or conditions can easily be run through. Yes, there are plenty of example programs that are not checkable, but there also are plenty that are. Just in the same way, there are plenty of poem forms (like iambic pentameter or limerick) that are able to be validated, and free form poems that aren't.

    We could get into music and debate if half the chords that Jimi Hendrix used were correct, or if the notes that (self-taught) Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull blew on his flute were "correct". I've seen code with two bugs that cancelled each other out.


  • The old term "craft" seems more apt than "art" -- programming's a lot more like carpentry than painting or dance. Unfortunately, that term has been degraded to mean the practice of making toaster cozies from yarn and suchlike.

    As for writing mathematical proofs, that strikes me as a unique sort of activity that has hardly anything in common with either the arts or craft work. That I might find a particular proof "beautiful" in the same way I find a painting, the Grand Canyon or the night sky beautiful doesn't mean all those things are works of art.

  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:25AM (#417203)
    So let me try instead of getting sidetracked by the "is code really art?" argument. The basic principle is this: knowledge gained about every area of a game will always help, no matter what your job description in the team.

    So for instance:

    • Artists will generally produce better work once they understand the concept of finite resources - frames per second, memory and compression.
    • Level designers work better when they have a concept of basic graphics principles such as "Overdraw is bad."
    • Coders have more sympathy for developing good tools when buggy ones can wipe out a team member's hard work.
    • Producers have more sympathy for sleepy team members when they try and solve Heisenbugs in 100 000-line listings themselves.

    Asking "where do coders and artists fit in" these days is a tricky question. In the very best teams there's always some crossover knowledge to be gained. What counts is your attitude: can I work within these limits that the other people have set me?

    If you're not only willing to learn all you can about your own discipline but as much as possible about the others, you'll be able to solve more problems when the crunch comes.

  • Art is about conveying beauty and/or a message to an audience (sometimes just the artist himself).

    Programming (and other mathematical/engineering disciplines) is about building useful structures. The humans doing the building may be partially guided by artistic concerns, but that doesn't make the output "art". The primary purpose is "does it work" not "is it nice to look at" or even "is it elegant."

    The primary purpose of a piece of code may be to perform a function, but that doesn't mean that the programmer may not have also put substantial effort into it as a piece of art - the two are not mutually exclusive.

    There may be some programmers (well OK, there are many) who don't care what their code looks like, but there are many others who care a great deal. I personally put a lot of artistic effort into my work - since pleasing me is just as important to me as meeting my externally imposed goals.

    I try to achieve an impressionististic minimalism in my code, where function is suggested by form and where the code has a fractal like property of having a similar and appropriate level of complexity at whatever level of detail you look at it. These may also be good engineering practices, but my motivation is as much aesthetic.

  • One might define anything dealing with programming as an art not entirely unlike visual design, architecture, literary composition, or musical composition.

    One might look at it this way: computers can't entirely write their own programs, given a problem (task) that needs a solution (programmed routine). At least, not yet anyway. Humans, however, don't think like computers when they write programs. There is no brute force in writing a program, there is no deterministic solution mapped out for every programming task. Instead, we take a general idea - that is, what we want a program to do - and sculpt it with the available tools. While assembly language programmers are more similar to engineers operating a machine... high level programmers are abstracted far enough from the absolute technical details such that programming constructs are more like ideas of execution flow, rather than absolute commands.

    This is the great thing about game programming, though. If you're more of an artist and less of an engineer, and you enjoy working with a broad range of creative fields, game programming is almost perfect. You get to combine programming, visual elements, artwork, architechture, musical elements, strategic planning, competitive balancing, storytelling, etc. all into one project. Take another field of programming... say, AI... and although it's also a creative field, it's not very broad - it's kind of like how a painting on its own cannot have a song or a love story attached to it.

    Of course, the biggest problems with game programming are dragged in from their respective artistic components - you need to be a lot smarter than your average Joe Shmoe job (the programming and strategy aspects), you need specialized knowledge (programming, game rule design), you may wind up starving (visual and musical arts), getting it all to match up together is not a simple task (programming, visual arts, musical arts, and storytelling)... and other pitfalls. For example:

    It needs to run acceptably fast, no music at all is better than having a shitty soundtrack, you can't give everyone a BFG to start, it can't be the fiftieth game about fantasy ninja American-soldier magician mercenaries shooting up all the Communist alien demonic Orcs with crates, you gotta stay away from making models with black belts and brown shoes, you can't write lines like "All your base are belong to us", you should not have to play it 26 hours straight through to beat it without being able to save it, it needs to be compatible with as much hardware as possible, it should not require that you hold down Q, L, F6, and the right mouse button for any cruicial game action, it needs to fit on a CD-ROM, and it needs to be in a pretty box.

    Smooth Internet multiplayer mode, proximity mines, and a sniper rifle with magnified scope are nice extras. ;)
  • If you are programming the solution to a known problem, your usual accounting/stock control/etc applications, then it's just engineering. You have room for adding your personal touch to it, just like any engineer have, but it's not quite art.

    Other programs, like new problems, new algorithms for old problems or programs in which your "personal touch" is a large part of how the program works, well, *that* is art.
  • real art appeals to people who aren't artists

    I have to disagree with you vehemently. It is obvious you don't write code, or at least if you do, you can only write in COBOL or Visual Basic.

    We're all artists, and art does not entail appeal to non-artists -- at least, not in the same manner as the artists' community. Take music, for instance. I think we can all agree that music is an art. However, when the musician hears music being performed, what he hears and perceives is very different from what the layman hears and perceives. The practitioners of the art, who alone are privy to its techniques and possibilities, exist in a transcendent awareness of qualities of the art -- almost as if the art speaks to them in a language invisible to the layman. Parallels can be drawn in any other field that dares call itself art.

    (The previous is probably the reason that, when I was in the all-state band in 1997, the CD players in many of our hotel rooms played Dream Theater instead of the current pop artist of the week.)

    Programming is an art all the same, with the added quality that the "invisible language" is not imagined, but real (our programming languages). And not only does the language speak to us and make us to appreciate a program in a way the layman could not, but the language is also the primary tool of the art's creation!

    The layman can still appreciate software in his own way; why is Windows and its software so popular? Because it's made with the layman in mind. Think of it as the Britney Spears of software.

    SecretAsianMan (54.5% Slashdot pure)
  • IMHO, especially when it comes to the web, the best designers wouldn't make good programmers and the best programmers wouldn't make good designers.

    BUT it's important for the programmers to know how the design process works, in order to accomodate the design. It's equally important for the designers to know, basically, how the programming infrastructure (in my case, HTML tables, CSS, and limits) works.

    I'm a good programmer. But not such a great designer. And I've worked with great designers who couldn't code a line if they copied and pasted it out of the help file, but they know HOW it worked.
  • >[snip] or calling a particularly well-constructed brick wall art.

    found this one interesting. I sometimes like to compare coding to architecture. An architect CAN be an artist (Gaudi, Rietveld), but isn't necessarily. Also, architecture can be a science since thinking up a building 150 meters high that won't topple at the third gust of wind can be quite a challenge (probably.. I'm no architect). Sure.. the brick wall isn't art (usually it isn't, art's a weird thing at times), but Gaudi's cathedral is definately a work of art. Where do architects draw the line? I have no idea.. but I think the situation is similar.


  • by Bilestoad ( 60385 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @09:53AM (#417226)
    Yes code is art, but more often than not the wrong kind of code is seen as art. Some people think "art" is using every obscure language feature to pack as much as possible onto one line. Others think it is getting creative with the preprocessor. Usually these are kids who don't know the language and are still excited by newly discovered features.

    If you don't have to think too hard about a piece of code to re-use it then it's art.

    REAL art code is obvious, even to a VB programmer. Anyone can read it and understand it easily. It's efficient, but does not sacrifice readability for cycles unless it absolutely has to. And it even looks nice.
  • by romco ( 61131 )
    Art should invoke an emotonal responce.

    A photograph can show an event in time and/or show
    the detail of an object. For a photograph to
    be art it must provoke an emotonal responce in
    the viewer.

    I have seen some programs that have artisic uses
    (digital recording and graphics programs for example) but a computer program is closer to a
    camera than a photograph.
  • "Does this mean that the song was art, but now is not?"

    nope... it's still art, although it may not be as popular as it once was.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:49AM (#417234)
    An artists "paints" with his mouse, chisel, hammer, chainsaw (dam, I love those ice sculptures!)

    A programmer has a screen as their "canvas", with his/her "brushes" being their "keyboard." A well crafted API, with clean, commented code is just as much a thing of beauty.

    Here is the key: *BOTH people create something!

    While code isn't as visible to the consumer, it can still be elegant.

    As a programmer, we constently changing between the macroscopic design, and microscopic implementation. I would imagine artists go thru the same thought process. Yes? No?

    In that one in a million time when the artist's ego get out of line, a funny respons is: "You can have game without artists, but you can't have a [computer] game without artists ;-)"

    And of course when the programmer's ego's get too big, a good response is: "Programmer art. Ugh. For the love of my eyes, no!"

    Seriously, artists need coders, coders need artists. Without the other, you got, crappy games. (Yes, I love text adventures, but I want my eye candy now ;-) Quake 3... mmmm.

    *shrugs* -- just a game programmer...

  • Look, in my mind, the differences between the two are like the differences between "plumber" and "electrician"; there's different sets of knowledge that go into each, but the actual jobs are very similar: they both build. So do artists, so do programmers. I look at the whole of game building as "building games", which includes putting together the artwork, coding, etc.

    Look, big picture overview: artists are people who create. Coders are people who create. they just create with different goals in mind, when they're seperate. But, when you're building something that includes both, the goal for both is the same, so the people working on it should be conversant in both. It's a good thing, and it's really nice to be able to stretch the brain in both creativity and logical thinking.
  • there are a lot of things you learn and see in college when doing CS that are nothing short of art! Its much like paintings and music... you uappreciate what you can understand. Sometimes things just look like dumb lines of abstract paint...... well maybe you have not got the artists eye about colors and emotions! Just like that what may seem like scribles on the computer screen and a whole bunch of parentheses to an averge computer users looks to me like an awesome bit of code in Scheme! its a matter of how you look at it...... and BY THE WAY, a lot of coders spend considerable ammounts of time (at least when in college) to make their code sexy!
  • Wow. That was one of the most eye-opening posts I've seen in quite a while. You nicely exposed the kernel of the matter - it's the purpose of the endeavor that counts.

  • Art isn't something that is beautiful to look at, it must have "meaning" to be art
    That's a very modern outlook and discounts much of the history of art.
    This is why art movements like abstract expressionism are art
    And that's why you've had to pick a fairly modern style of art to illustrate your point.
  • The primary purpose is "does it work" not "is it nice to look at" or even "is it elegant."

    You've never programmed on a team, have you? :-)

    I know what you're saying, but even so - if that code doesn't compile/work etc. you have failed. If it was really about 'is it elegant' or 'is it nice to look at', it would just be a collection of functions and strings that may or may not do something. The primary purpose is to make it work.

    The problem is that here the line is blurry, because some people would argue that beauty is seeing ingenious ways to *make something work*. However I wouldn't consider it art. I'd consider it fine and ingenious engineering.
  • The greek term techne substantially covers the ground being argued here. The key aspect which joins these seemingly disparate sets is the practice of artifice in its most general sense. The term *artificial* is also helpful here, signifying as it does *man-made* We're makers. This level of generality bleeds into insignificance, I'll admit, but there is a grain of truth in the assertion.
  • Art is a creation whose functionality can not be described as right or wrong. A finely written C program isn't art because the creator has the compass of "compilable" and "runnable" to work themselves out of corners. What makes the creation of art special is that there is no possible objective test of it's sucess or quality.

    I'd say that a functional object (house, car, software) can be artful and contain elements of art, but it is not art in and of itself simply because you can always say "well, it works (or doesn't)". You just can't say that objectively about a art - which is what makes it so interesting to spend time on.

  • by Satai ( 111172 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:07AM (#417266)
    FZ put it beautifully once. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but the message should be the same.

    Art needs three things.

    1. A frame - so you know where the art ends and the world begins. Otherwise how can you tell a painting from "that shit on the wall."
    2. The artist needs to will it to be art.
    3. The audience needs to receive it as art.

    Frankly (haha), I agree with him.
  • Art is creative expression.

    If you wrote a virus that infected peoples computers. Then changed all the microsoft icons to pentagrames. Then I spose that could be considered art.
    Or if you wrote a program that expressed your self in a differnt, not so harmful way. I spose that could be consided art aswell.

    Why do I think this? Cause I'm a graphic designer/web designer. If I made a personal web site for my self. I would consider it a peice of art.
    But if I was doing it as a job for someone. I don't consider it art. Becasue I'm not expressing my self. I doing work for someone.

    I spose you could say that I was expressing on the behalf if I was doing a oil painting for an ad.
    I think of what I do more as design/engineering. I trying to communicate with the person who is using my site. Not trying to express myself to them.

    I think thats one of the biggest differnces between an artist and a designer. I spose what make you which, depends on what your doing it for.
    If course, these things tend to overlap a bit in the real world. I think a game progaer would be a bit of both in this case. Depending on how much much creative control he had over the game.

    I think that makes goups like britney spear, backstreet boys, designers. Since they have been designed for a target audience. I hardly think britney does it to express herself. Well... except in that. ;)

  • I would like to recommend a book that demonstrates the beauty of creativity. It's a book about a mathematician, an artist, and a musician... or, that is at least one way of looking at it. Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid [] weaves together the works of three creative individuals, demonstrating through example, that the things commoningly known as mathematics, art, music - they all share the same beauty. With a second glance, the book is about three mathematicians, or three artists, or three musicians, or any combination thereof!

    Anyway, this book is very common. You can find it at your library, or you can buy your own copy for $18. It is worth your time, money, effort! If you are a programmer, an engineer, a mathematician... a musician, and/or an artist, this book will make great bedtime reading.
  • by Brownstar ( 139242 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @09:57AM (#417292)
    I'm sure Van Gogh was a hit with the ladies (particularily after he cut off his ear.)
  • by ( 142825 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:09AM (#417294) Homepage
    What about programs that make your line printer play Jingle Bells" or the theme from Mission Impossible?
  • My anthropology professor, at least, stressed that ritual objects used by cultures all over the world, no matter how beautiful they may seem to be a Westerner, cannot be classified as art if they are perceived to carry a definite functional (i.e. religious) value.

    In fact, at least according to him, many anthropologists go so far as to define art specifically as that which is _not_ functionally useful, or at least objects for which function is of secondary value.
  • If there were only one "right" way to do things then you would be right.

    Unfortunatly, thats not the way it is. There are many valid solutions to most problems, and the more complicated the problem the more potential solutions there are. Some answers are better in one respect, and simultaneosly worse in another.

    Furthermore, when combining lots of small solutions together into a large system, there is a huge margin for subjective thought. A huge part of it is simply how one looks at the problem. This is a medium for artistic thought just as much as songwriting or mathematics.

    Most businesses in the USA try to treat programming as it was menial labor. They dont understand why productivity is inversely proportional to management. They dont understand that only a handful of guys in their IT dept are doing most of the actual work.

    The reason is that, like you, they dont understand that programming is in fact, an Art.

  • by Kingfox ( 149377 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:13AM (#417299) Homepage Journal
    There are a few coders I've seen who create elegant code that rivals fine art. Not quite Beethoven, but music has been around for a bit longer, and has had more time to create such fine artists. Maybe a few hundred years from now we'll see a code-god of Beethoven's level.

    The M* [] I work on has been a great experience for me to see a wide variety of code. The game has exchanged hands many times since it started in 93/94, going through dozens of various coders. Some fix bugs through elegant user-friendly well-written code that looks gorgeous. Others toss on nasty patches that look like someone's stapled a band-aid to a leper's open sores. After dealing with spaghetti code for hours, a certain coder's works truly look like Beethoven to me.

    But perhaps that can be attributed to the thirsty man in the desert thinking that the muddy water is Poland Spring. *grin*
  • You obviously have issues with your own inability to get laid and feel the need to vent your frustrations on an undeserving and often socially inept class of programmers.

    For the sake of humoring you, it's not so much the media that an artist chooses that enables this [in]famous ability to pull gine--it's the artist's passion that has a tendancy to bleed in to other aspects of their life and personality that really boosts their attractiveness.

    I find a lot of pleasure in good code and I do believe that it's a safe assumption that I pull roughly ten or so times more puss than you. ;)

  • And where is the mathematical proof that a program is well-designed, useful and easy to use? Or "elegant"? Is there a formula that describes the degree of elegancy a snippet of code may represent?

  • by dark_panda ( 177006 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:46AM (#417324)
    If this was the case, then why is Beethoven an artist? Musical composition is basically just mathematics, putting musical notes into harmonious equations.

    Or what about programming's end product -- the software (usually, anyways). Can a non-programmer appreciate the OS X interface or a nice well programmed web page?

    It takes just as much skill to write a program in C as it does to write a good sonnet in English. The end product might be different, but the concept is pretty much the same.

  • I dont care about grammar, not at all. I often leave out minor or even important puncuation. Alot of times I just post in lower case, and without any puncuation.

    Sorry if I gave you the impression that grammar was important to me. Its not. It probably should be, but at this point, for casual communication, I just dont care. For professional or semi-professional communications, I usually take a minute to proof read. But not for slashdot.

  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @11:04AM (#417329)
    I once argued this point to a stubborn humanities teacher.

    She was blathering about how many different artists were being repressed by resitrctions on government grants for the arts.

    Her position was that anything that illustrates or explains a beautiful or deep concept in a non-traditional way was artistic.
    After a while of her spouting, I asked her if I should be able to claim a government grant for writing my "code poetry". The class was over, and I didnt have time to fully explain my point.

    I went home, and for the next class, wore my "Code Poet" shirt from Think Geek.

    I argued with her for close to an hour. My point of view was if throwing horse dung against a white wall was considered art, so was designing a recursive, compact, tight and elegant function for activity logging (just an example, of course). She responded by saying "its only code - its not like its art of anything" and I told her that I've seen pieces of code more beautiful and more awe-inspiring than any painting or any photograph, and certainly more than any neo-classical crap-on-wall art piece.

    My final point was this: art is not something that is clearly definable. Art is something that the masses cannot easily or readily produce - art is what cannot be churned out using a formula and delivered en mass.

    I think most everyone who codes understands filly that a complex piece of code is more beautiful than any poem or sonnet, and deserves as much recognition as any convential piece of art.
  • The line is in your mind. Those who value art over science would be more apt to consider themselves artists, and vice-versa. Does it change the code? No. The underlying theory? No. All it changes is your approach to programming, and the self-esteem you derive from it. Call it what you will.
  • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @02:38PM (#417332)
    So that we can get paid more. :)

  • Now I may have no formal training in the classical "arts", but it has always been my understanding that true art is a reflection of the world in which we live. As such, the argument can easily be made that programming is the most relevant art form currently being practiced.

    Painting and sculpture, especially all this "avant garde" stuff that consists of nothing more than a few splashes of paint on a canvas, don't have anything to do with the world people live in at all. These elitist dandies like to proclaim that they are doing something of great public good, but who sees this "art"? Who is affected by it?

    Contrast this with your average programmer. My art work, while rarely seen directly, effects the lives of thousands of people a day. My Perl scripts for a large eCommerce site have a positive benefit to many people. And if you've ever read my code you know that it takes an artistic talent to make sense out of such apparent chaos ;-)

    Yes, modern day programmers are artists of the highest caliber. Our presence in this world is acutely felt by many, and our absence would be seriously detrimental to society. If you can not see the inherent beauty in a well-written algorithm then I am afraid you have no soul.

  • by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:56AM (#417336) Homepage
    * Every programmer I know makes a fat salary.

    * Every artist I know can barely afford ~$200 a month rent and eats a lot of rice.

    * Programmers are engineers who solve problems using code.

    * Art must have different meaning to different people, otherwise it is propaganda.

    * A piece of software only does one thing.

    This discussion would only arise among this community. I'm so far removed from how artists think, live and behave, and it sounds like so are the rest of you who like to pontificate about the artist/programmer duality.

    What a great example of young minds struggling to fit a marketable identity.

    Quit posing. Quit fantasizing about how many demographics you can span.

    Quit sighting cliche examples of supposed high-brow enlightenment: an elegant mathematical proof, a Beethoven symphony, fucking swan lake, or gotterdamurung. Gag.

    Just do what you enjoy and stop listening to soft-drink commercials.

  • Although one may successfully argue that a brilliant proof or algorithm is art, I don't think that the converse can be shown. Art, though usually carefully constructed does not require the same level of rigor that a piece of code, or mathematics, requires. This is why, typically, the traditional meaning of the word "art" is usually more expressive than a mathematical proof. Our art is limited by the bounds of rigor.

    That being said, there is certainly art involved in designing a user interface, or even an API to provide the most aethetic and "natural" way for people and programmers to interface with your game/code. This is the subjective art involved in coding.

    The problem that I have found with alot of people that code is that they don't have the rigor to back up their art. They do things too much by 'feel' when they could be getting better performance if they were more rigorous in writing algorithms. I guess that's a cost/benefit analysis between writing code fast, and writing fsat code. I've always leaned towards the latter when I've had a choice.

    BTW: The dangers of lack of rigor are demonstrated in some of the post-modern literary theories, such as deconstructionism, fathered by Jacques Derrida. (IMHO)

  • Your comparison is simply irrelevant to the discussion. Getting laid (or lack thereof) is simply a bi-product who you are, not whether or not your an artist. But, if you'd like to go down this road, I know plenty of so-called geeks that get laid, probably more so than Artists, simply because we can afford to buy, oh, say one of these []. I'm sure there are beautiful artists in the world, both outside as well as in, but you infer that because artists are, programmers are not. This is simply not so.

    I see through your lack of insight. And beauty? All I see here is Ego.

  • I'm a professional programmer and to a minor extent a professional artist (painter). Having studied famous painters, especially on the subject of color and composition I have no doubt that the good artists are the ones that were/are EXTREMELY analytical, and that is what usually set them apart from the soon forgotten artists. You can argue they they were color/composition programmers (at least the painters). They follow complex rules, they look at designs from a high up architecural point of view all the way down to the level of the pigments and mediums and substrate. All the good artists, from davinci to picasso may have been emotional and passionate and even crazy, but they always developed their artwork in a very objective, deliberate, and analytical way.
  • this is a nice argument, but it rests on our acceptance of your definition of art:

    Art is about conveying beauty and/or a message to an audience (sometimes just the artist himself).

    right. well, i think art is mashed potatoes, motherfucker.

    art and programming don't have to be mutually exclusive, because the former is undefinable. Not to mention that you use the subjective terms "beauty" and "message" to define it. (what the hell is beautiful?) Basically, you've stated : Art is about conveying [indeterminable things] and/or [inspecific communications] to an audience (sometimes just the artist myself). This does not strike me as enough evidence to definitively exclude programming as art. (although the front page blurb seems to equate an "elegant solution/production/code/etc." with "art" -- something i'm not prepared to do either.)

    saying programming is NOT art is just as ridiculous as saying programming IS art. it can't be proved or disproved in a general case (or probably even a specific one), and we can argue about it for fucking forever. better to spend that time making something that makes you happy. (whether you choose to call it programming, or art, or whatever).


    (beyond that, if you're an artist, you probably think so already, and don't need a goddamn slashdot thread to convince you.)
  • So is the Mona Lisa art or not? If you can't define it, it becomes really difficult to talk about!

    determining whether the mona lisa is "art" does not stop me from talking about its composition, author's process, or place in history.


    er. so clearly, you've never talked to anyone about the mona lisa, computer-boy.
  • Programming is to art as VB is to assembler.
  • by zephc ( 225327 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @09:50AM (#417376)
    the definition of the border between the two is so blurry as to be different for each person. It's what you make of it, not what one person or group of people say.

    MOVE 'SIG'.
  • Your theory, of course, breaks down totally when it comes to beautiful women who can appreciate artistic code. Of course, these are usually intelligent women. I guess you just don't know any? That is a shame.

    Yes, I have shown some girls what I have done, and even though they may not understand it at the lower level, they are impressed, and I dare say aroused!

    Btw, most of these ladies are also athletes. I don't think I've ever met a fat slob that I could honestly say I found above average intelligence.

  • by OlympicSponsor ( 236309 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @09:57AM (#417387)

    Where's the line between fish and fowl? (penguins)
    Where's the line between hacker and cracker?
    Where's the line between mother and non-? (host/surrogate/adopted mother)

    You are confusing at least three different concepts. The first is "these two categories are so conceptually close that drawing a line between them is difficult" (hacker vs cracker). The second concept is "ill-defined categories" (fish, mother). The third "very different categories that contain many of the same members"--which concept applies to programmers and artists, I would argue.

    Art is about conveying beauty and/or a message to an audience (sometimes just the artist himself).

    Programming (and other mathematical/engineering disciplines) is about building useful structures. The humans doing the building may be partially guided by artistic concerns, but that doesn't make the output "art". The primary purpose is "does it work" not "is it nice to look at" or even "is it elegant."

    Just because the categories of "artist" and "programmers" contain many of the same members, doesn't automatically make the output of the Programmer class art any more than it makes the output of the Artist class software.
  • Whilst I agree that the term "art" is misunderstood, I don't think this is a better definition. I know this sounds like flame, but code isn't art. Art is paintings and drawings and being creative. Don't get me wrong, code is creative, but it also follows fixed rules. Art is a reflection of how one feels, it is emotive and personal. Code is not. It is not a reflection of how one feels. It is an accomplishment of what one knows, and seeing a new way to get around a specific problem.

    It is something I feel very strongly about, and I feel that those that call code an "art" are just too "up themselves" if you'll excuse the phase. Yes we might see it as "beautiful", in the same way as we might see some of the intricacies of maths as beautiful.

    But under no circumstances can we call it to be on the same level as true arts like music. Yes, it does its job, it is beautiful, obviously we love it, we wouldn't do it otherwise, but it is no more art than the balance between inflation and interest rate! Code is not art, it is not a way of expressing yourself in the same way as Rachmaninov composing his piano concertos is. If you don't know it, go and download the slow movement of his second piano concerto, and this is art. No code in the world can compare.

    We use the term "art" in the wrong sense completely. Yes, it is obviously open to interpretation, but I do truly believe you use it in the wrong sense. I am proud when I produce good code, I most probably would refer to it as a work of art, but I use it in the wrong sense of the word. Be proud of your work, yes, and admire others too, but don't be so short sighted as to call it "art". Admire it, find it beautiful, find it intriguing, perfect, serenely clear, whatever you like, but it is not art.

  • by Verne ( 249617 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2001 @10:01AM (#417406)
    I think these are two different types of things. Art is creative visions represented physically (or something like that) where as art for computer games are just pictures.
    Programming can be creative, and graphics for games requires artistic talent, but I would not call game graphics art, as it is not really an expression of anything.

    For me, a piece of code, or an elegant mathematical proof is as much art as a Picasso, or Beethoven's 5th Symphony

    I really disagree with this statement. Composing music is the ultimate way to express yourself. I would hate to think there is any way to express yourself in a mathematical proof...
  • I've had this discussion/arguement with several friends. My girlfriend is a graphic designer/web developer and I'm a programmer/web developer. I was once told that "solving a problem creatively with code implies you are a good programmer, but it does not make you an artist."

    My next question was "what makes a person an artist?"

    The only answer was "creativity" and the arguement was over.
  • Well, if programming is art than I'm definitely a still life piece since I do nothing at work!
  • You see, you all have a significant problem here. You are failing to define the word "art" on a small enough scale. In fact, off the top of my head I would argue that there are, in fact, two different types of art: art that requires you simply to look at it, and art that must be worked through to be appreciated.

    The first are generally things like sculptures, paintings and stained-glass windows. More recently, photographs have been added to this list, and I see no reason that you cannot now add 3D modelling as well. I have seen some remarkable 3D rendered images that could only be considered works of art -- they are, quite simply, both remarkably beautiful and amazingly skillful.

    The second type of art is stuff like poetry, where you have to actually read through it in order to appreciate it. Personally, I don't even think of this as art so much -- I am a writer, but I don't think of what I write as being art in itself. In many ways, writing a book and designing a game are remarkably similar, especially if you go to extreme lengths like I do, in designing vehicles, weapons, even sketching characters. That's unusual, and I only do it because I'm a designer as well. This second type of art is generally inspired either by the same things that inspire the first type, or by first type of art itself. That is to say, many poems are about landscapes, or people, just as are paintings. However, the second type allows far more abstract expression of ideas than the first type does -- and as such, good programming could, of course, be regarded as an art-form. However, it is much more difficult to quantify. A poem can be read by anyone and appreciated by anyone, but I can't imagine myself sitting down and reading six hundred lines of code because I think it's beautiful. It is, in this way, more like mathematics, which can also be beautiful.

    I shan't go on because I'm not sure how well I can make my point in a shortish post. Basically, I think we have to distinguish between something that is beautiful and something that is art. They are not necessarily the same thing.

  • Your statement imply that you say that ALL games are not an art form. This is not true. Games that are not truely an art form are those such as Tetris, Solitaire, Mah Jongg, and some of the more basic shareware games.

    However..what about Games with extensive thought out environments? games that have complete musical scores that can be found no where else? games that show fantastic displays of processor power, and just make the player go "WOW!!"? If you are an experienced enough gamer you will find that there are games out there where a single look at the environmental art and you know who the designer is. You can Identify the musical and sound composers from the score of various games. You can identify who did the control scheme just by the feel of the character moving on the screen.

    All these are indications of an Art form. People pouring their personalities into the works that they produce. The only reason why it's such a debate at this moment is because gaming is so mainstream that the artists are experiencing the fruits of their labors while they are still living. In reality, if fifty or 100 years pass and we look back at the games that have been produced, will we see them as we currently look back upon a Van Gogh, Rembrant, Picasso, or Renoir?

    A previous poster had stated something along the lines of a computer is as much of an artists tool as a paintbrush. You have to ask yourself, what is the true meaning of Art? I have always seen the definition as a creation of a person's expression of his most heartfelt ideas. Sure some games are just comercial pushes, but the best games are more often truely art.

    The empty can may rattle the most, but a full can sure hurts like hell when it beans off some poor sap's forehead.

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