Coding as a fine art

Richard Gabriel, the author of the essay Worse is Better, has suggested that we treat coding not as an engineering discipline but as a fine art in The Poetry of Programming (via Sarabian).

When I’m writing poetry, it feels like the center of my thinking is in a particular place, and when I’m writing code the center of my thinking feels in the same kind of place. It’s the same kind of concentration.

There’s a sort of mysticism about coding; the Jargon File tries to explain this a bit, and the hacker mentality parodies it rather a lot (see terms like “black magic” as a verbal shorthand for very complex code that no-one really understands), and it’s very easy to step over the line into ridiculousness or self-parody by taking this sort of thing too seriously. But coding is an art, rather than a science, although it’s an art where only other coders can really appreciate your artistry, unlike, say, painting, or architecture. I don’t think coders are artists, who do the work purely for the art’s sake, but I do think that they may be artisans, which is a term I’ve picked up from Dorothea Salo. Craftsmen, if you will. (Should that be “craftspersons”?) ——-

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