Site Reliability Team Lead at News UK

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10 October 2014

Is Coding Art

by Mike

I was recently asked this question and after lengthy contemplation I have to argue that as most people practice it no, it is not art.

I am not trying to take away from the great works of these people. Far from it. Being ‘art’ is just a label. It doesn’t make it better or worse than anything else.

So why am I stating that most code is not art? It comes down to a few reasons:

This last points I think is the important ones. Building architecture is a hybrid of art (form) and engineering (function) and I think we should look at programming from a similar perspective.

Modern architecture uses a lot of computer assistance to design a building; from calculating loads and resource requirements to in some cases designing the actual form of the building itself with only minor tweaks from the architect. This is a very wide range and we accept that (although arguments still exist both ways).

So can programming be art? I think so, especially where the source code itself is the output. Take ‘Brain fuck’ language is a little less clear cut as the language is still compiled, but the only real use is the challenge of writing or understanding the code. I suppose in this context it could be looked at as performance art, except that generally you are performing alone.