[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Fri Jan 24 03:33:37 CET 2014

But it also depends on how it's written:

push(@me_off, 'a cliff');

On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 9:19 PM, Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com> wrote:

> And, as a reply to Seibel's comments, do we not "decode" literature? I've
> always felt a deep divide between people who have a background in
> programming/engineering/tech stuff who have moved into creative realms
> ("Art") and those who have a background in the arts but have moved towards
> programming/engineering ("tech"). It feels to me that the tech-background
> people have a harder time seeing programming as "art". To them, the product
> might be art, but not the process. They tend to be the ones to raise the
> question, "is the paint brush the art?" It all depends on how you approach
> it. The "paint brush" can, in fact, be the art.
> On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 8:11 PM, Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hi Alan, I think you make an excellent point here. "Who is looking at the
>> code and for what purposes?" The only thing that differentiates programming
>> code from other written text is its perceived purpose and people's reasons
>> for reading the text. If, in reading, you look for prose, you will find it.
>> If you don't, you won't. Likewise, if you look at an image, seeking art,
>> you will find it. If you're looking for something else, you won't find the
>> art.
>> On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 7:06 PM, Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com>wrote:
>>> Well, there are a number of issues here. In the first place, they're
>>> looking at code for particular reasons, to understand it in particular
>>> ways; code as literature or as part-objects within literature (codework) is
>>> not meant to be decoded the same way. Think of counting the number of "t"s
>>> for example in a poem - that's also a way of decoding it, but is of course
>>> different than literary reading. I think there's a hermeneutics involved
>>> here, as well as the Wittgensteinian idea of "family of usages" - so who is
>>> looking at the code/codework, for what purpose, and so forth? It's
>>> problematic; since code is primarily originating with programmers, they're
>>> interested in its functionality, taking it apart, but that's not it's only
>>> function, certainly not within the aegis of literature. An interesting
>>> aside to this of course is reading a mathematical text, which I think _can_
>>> be a work of literature fairly directly - for example Einstein's theory of
>>> relativity. One's reading speeds and slows, and the formulas require
>>> decoding as well, but of a different sort, I think; I also feel that, say,
>>> cosmological formulas are denser and more layered, more difficult to
>>> unravel perhaps, than most programming code - but I may well be mistaken
>>> here (and should take this whole sentence back!).
>>> - Alan
>>> On Thu, 23 Jan 2014, marc garrett wrote:
>>>  Code Is Not Literature - or is it?
>>>> I was browsing Slashdot as one does and found a link to an article
>>>> called ?Code Is Not Literature?.
>>>> As I was reading this I was thinking of Mez and Alan Sondheim, and
>>>> thought to myself - surely, if someone turns it into literature, then it is
>>>> literature?
>>>> Anyway, have a read and see what you think?
>>>> "Hacker and author Peter Seibel has done a lot of work to adopt one of
>>>> the most widely-accepted practices toward becoming a better programmer:
>>>> reading high quality code. He's set up code-reading groups and interviewed
>>>> other programmers to see what code they read. But he's come to learn that
>>>> the overwhelming majority of programmers don't practice what they preach.
>>>> Why? He says, 'We don't read code, we decode it. We examine it. A piece of
>>>> code is not literature; it is a specimen.' He relates an anecdote from
>>>> Donald Knuth about figuring out a Fortran compiler, and indeed, it reads
>>>> more like a 'scientific investigation' than the process we refer to as
>>>> 'reading.' Seibel is now changing his code-reading group to account for
>>>> this: 'So instead of trying to pick out a piece of code and reading it and
>>>> then discussing it like a bunch of Comp Lit. grad students, I think a
>>>> better model is for one of us to play the role of a 19th century naturalist
>>>> returning from a trip to some exotic island to present to the local
>>>> scientific society a discussion of the crazy beetles they found.'"
>>>> http://developers.slashdot.org/story/14/01/21/1847217/
>>>> code-is-not-literature
>>>> Here?s Seibel?s original text on his blog
>>>> http://www.gigamonkeys.com/code-reading/
>>>> wishing you well.
>>>> marc
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>>> ==
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>>> ==
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>> --
>> *****************************
>> Pall Thayer
>> artist
>> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>> *****************************
> --
> *****************************
> Pall Thayer
> artist
> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
> *****************************

Pall Thayer
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