Re: [-empyre-] Poetry and Programming

On 02.05.03 13:24, "Jim Andrews" <> wrote:

> I remember hearing about an MIT project in which a
> computer was
> constructed out of mechano or tinker toys, the point being that computers are
> made out of the
> theories of language and computation, and logic, not silicon.
An exercise I use to do, some years ago, with students new to computing was
called "we are going to build a computer in this class". Of course the
thought of building a complete computer in three hours bewildered and
terrified the students. I then explained that this would be a computer with
no monitor, keyboard, mouse or on/off switch. That all we needed was some
chairs (to sit on in a circle) and some rules and data for the rules to
operate upon and to modify said rules. The point was to show how computing
and computers are not necessarily mechanistic or electronic in form but
rather linguistic and communicative. Of course what we made was a Turing
machine, but they didn't need to know that. Once they had successfully
"built" (performed) this computer they were then allowed to start using
"real" computers and learn how to program as a poetic as well as technical

> Language has come into new relation with Mathematics and even Engineering over
> the last sixty
> years. One of the consequences of this, in art, is that the 'person vs
> machine' front is 'in the
> language' in different ways than it has been previously. We internalize the
> phenomenology of
> what a computer is and how to work one, ie, somewhat consciously, somewhat
> unconsciously, and
> the more we shape with it, the closer we come to the intersection of
> programming and, relatedly,
> mathematics.
This coming together of technological disciplines and art is very much the
product of the linguistic and symbolic nature of the dominant technology of
our time and the profound ways in which this relates to poetics and thus
creative processes in any of the arts. The well known convergent nature of
computing, a function of its symbolic and linguistic nature, is also a
factor here.

> There's the conflict between personal intent and programmed options
> (programmed intent):
> sometimes they don't line up. But also there's the conflict between technical
> language and
> artistic culture. And that is more to the 'person vs machine' conflict. In the
> case of
> programming, the troubles have a way of coming back to the conflict with the
> language of math,
> for many.
This conflict is commonly typified as person vs machine...however, it is
really a cultural conflict between people...people who have different
outlooks upon the world. However, as is often the case, when you look
closely at the assumed differences (between science and art, in this case)
they are not what they first appeared and usually not as profound as we

> Programming must be viewed as a creative undertaking in the transformation not
> simply of art but
> of humanity and the world (like it will/is anyway), not an activity reserved
> for
> engineer/accountants and regulatory or strictly commercial application .
> Artists must inform the
> vision of where computing is going and offer works that shape the future.
> They are and will,
> but the cultures of art and Mathematics/Computer Science are still far from
> the sort of
> communication that creates numerous practicioners . The alternative is a world
> shaped without
> art, without joy, in the image of a machine, not humanity and our spiritual
> and generous,
> exuberant nature. It is more than a battle against the forces of dullness, but
> mayhem is
> dullness and numbing even on the news.
The computer scientist Terry Winograd described the computer as not a
machine for writing but as writing in and of itself. That is, computing is
writing, computers are instances of writing.

I understand this to mean that computers are linguistic and symbolic systems
that come into being as performative linguistic events. That is, each
computer program, as it runs, is an example of parole, the particular
instance of language as it exists in the world. So, if computing is writing
then programming is the "art" of forming writing potentialities and the
execution of the program equivalent to utterance or the moment of poesis.

Of course, it could just be to solve a problem...



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

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