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Where Is The Line Between Programmer And Artist?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the blurred-to-indistinction dept.

Games 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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Programming as "Art" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#417132)

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.

one in the same... (2)

hank (294) | more than 13 years ago | (#417135)

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?

Both Artists and Programmers (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 13 years ago | (#417136)

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.

Re:creative != artistic (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 13 years ago | (#417137)

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.

Programmers are more like modern day sorcerers. (3)

root (1428) | more than 13 years ago | (#417141)

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.

Doesn't matter (1)

deanc (2214) | more than 13 years ago | (#417147)

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."


This is masturbatory (5)

the red pen (3138) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

A programmer is an artist in a way... (1)

jtseng (4054) | more than 13 years ago | (#417154)

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.

Re:Creativity more than just Art (1)

sacherjj (7595) | more than 13 years ago | (#417169)

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.

Creativity more than just Art (4)

sacherjj (7595) | more than 13 years ago | (#417170)

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.

My careers (1)

Luke (7869) | more than 13 years ago | (#417171)

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.

Re:My careers (1)

Luke (7869) | more than 13 years ago | (#417172)

Hey man, programming is an art - many fellow musicians I know are also computer geeks and likewise - many programmers are also accomplished musicians.

I'm sure both use similar mechanisms in the mind.

Some quotes from Knuth:

A scientific approach is generally characterized by the words logical, systematic, impersonal, calm, rational, while an artistic approach is characterized by the words aesthetic, creative, humanitarian, anxious, irrational. It seems to me that both of these apparently contradictory approaches have great value with respect to computer programming.

The chief goal of my work as an educator and author is to help people learn to write beautiful programs.

Therefore I want to address my closing remarks to the system programmers and the machine designers who produce the systems that the rest of us must work with. Please, give us tools that are a pleasure to use, especially for our routine assignments, instead of providing something we have to fight with. Please, give us tools that encourage us to write better programs, by enhancing our pleasure when we do so. It's very hard for me to convince college freshmen that programming is beautiful, when the first thing I have to tell them is how to punch ``slash slash JOB equal so-and-so.''

We have seen that computer programming is an art, because it applies accumulated knowledge to the world, because it requires skill and ingenuity, and especially because it produces objects of beauty.

Donald E. Knuth, Computer programming as an Art, 1974

Re:Art is a way of expressing yourself (1)

Luke (7869) | more than 13 years ago | (#417173)

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...

You've never seen two people try to prove the same thing, have you?

Re:Coding as an outlet for creativity (2)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 13 years ago | (#417175)

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.

Re:Artist have only one required attribute... (1)

erwin (8773) | more than 13 years ago | (#417176)

But is creativity only an attribute of the artists? Much code is the product of creativity.

I've always thought that the difference between artists and programmers has been along the lines of asthetics and extroversion/introversion.

Most programmers that I work with are comfortable working within a known system (language, OS, etc). They try to make the most of the constraints placed upon them by available resources, time, etc, to come up with the most elegant hack. The question then becomes who is the hack for, and what does it say about the hacker, the cultural system that it was created in, etc.

Artists are limited by their medium(s) of choice, are trying to do much the same - trancend the medium's (system's) constraints to reach new levels of expression.

So I guess it all comes back to creativity and how well you can use your tools of choice.

It can't be art! (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 13 years ago | (#417179)

I've always thought of art as "that stuff that I can't do."
Ergo, programming can't be art, right?
Seriously, I don't think all programming is art.
Besides the machine-generated gunk that is practically a necessity in the Windows programming world these days, we've all seen code that is to programming what an explosion in a paint factory is to Picasso.
I've also seen some very well thought out and executed systems that I probably would consider art or nearly so.

Re:A big difference (1)

Coyote (9900) | more than 13 years ago | (#417180)

Maybe not such a big difference - I looked up "engineer" in three different dictionaries once. All had similar definitions that engineering was the "ART of designing, operating and using machinery." Some parts of a game design may be more of a fine art, and some may be more of a practical art, but all who contributeare artists, choosing their own elements of style out of the infinite possibilities before them.

Art vs Engineering (1)

Norman Lorrain (11572) | more than 13 years ago | (#417184)

You can look at code from any number of perspectives, but for the sake of argument allow me to shoehorn them into two categories. Some view programming as an art, something that just "happens" and is totally dependent on the genius of the "artist". No process is considered. The individual is working on inspiration. A fly by the seat of the pants approach. A few remarkable individuals seem to get away with this, and do quite well. For a while anyway.

Others view the field as entirely an engineering discipline. Even GUI design falls under the realm of "Human Factors Engineering". Process is king here. Every change is backed up by a change order and source code control.

Over time, my view has moved steadily towards the engineering end of the spectrum. Big surprise. I've seen too much effort wasted to buy the "I'm an artist; leave me alone" attitude. I think it's a cop-out supported by people with a short attention span who don't want to work with a team.

True art (painting, music, etc.) is a transfer function: taking life's experiences and expressing them through universally recognized symbols. Really now, how do you express emotion (pain, love, joy) in a line of working code.

We're builing logic machines here. Correctness matters. That's not to say a design can't be "elegant". Indeed some of the best engineering (bridges, towers) is very aesthetically pleasing. But that doesn't make it art.

Now when it comes to games, a lot of it is art; there's character development, the layout of the scenes, etc. I suppose you could consider the creation of that as art. But the encoding of that into computer instructions is engineering precisely because it has to be correct (or it won't even compile).

Art is in the eye of the beholder, but... (2)

FallLine (12211) | more than 13 years ago | (#417185)

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.

Re:Proof that Geeks Don't Understand Art. (2)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 13 years ago | (#417188)

Holy jamoley!

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



In the eye of the beholder... (2)

Bryan Andersen (16514) | more than 13 years ago | (#417190)

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.

Re:a test (2)

Bryan Andersen (16514) | more than 13 years ago | (#417191)

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?

Looks (1)

thb3 (19142) | more than 13 years ago | (#417192)

More and more people care more about if it works right that if it looks pretty. A prime example is Everquest, a mmorpg. As a player, sure I want it to look pretty, but I would rather have a game that works right than have to sit there and stare at a pretty Giant that has an arm in his head because the programmer didn't bother to check the code for glitches.

Re:You are ignoring other important questions (1)

Jaeden (24087) | more than 13 years ago | (#417198)

Actually, "fish" are a fairly easy group to identify. I agree with your other points, but to say that fish are an ill-defined category is quite incorrect.

Programming is a craft (2)

alkali (28338) | more than 13 years ago | (#417200)

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.

No-one's really answered the question yet... (3)

mav[LAG] (31387) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

It's all art (2)

brianvan (42539) | more than 13 years ago | (#417215)

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. ;)

The set of all code and set of all art intersect (1)

gold23 (44621) | more than 13 years ago | (#417218)

And if that is not the geekiest way of explaining my position, I don't know what is.

I started out as a physics major at university, with the plan of specialising in the theoretical, particle physics end of things. But I came to discover that what I loved about it was the beauty of the underlying mathematics.

Now I work much more closely with that math, in my job as a programmer. Not as close, perhaps, as I would like, since I spend a disproportionate amount of time writing code to spew HTML, rather than creating beautiful visual effects to accompany my friends' musical endeavors, but as time goes on, I expect the scales to continue to tip in favor of the art.

However, I do feel that any elegantly written piece of code, or design architecture, can be beautiful, in an artistic sense. It's all about whether the viewer has been trained to appreciate it. I don't care for opera or ballet -- they don't mean anything to me. But I'm sure that if I took the time to learn the "language" in which they are communicating, I would be able to appreciate the beauty.

Disclaimer: I enjoy many genres of music, from classical to trance, from White Zombie and Lords of Acid to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. I paint. I built a deck in my backyard, of my own design. It still stands, years later, and looks good. I write, fiction and otherwise.

-- gold23

Re:A big difference (1)

MartinG (52587) | more than 13 years ago | (#417220)

That's a big generalisation. I think many traditional artists would be unhappy if you said that to them.

A compiler isn't really evil. It's not artistic either. It's can be an artists tool though, just like a paintbrush is.

Misunderstood art (5)

Bilestoad (60385) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

a test (2)

romco (61131) | more than 13 years ago | (#417228)

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.

Why differentiate? (2)

doonesbury (69634) | more than 13 years ago | (#417235)

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.

What artists are really for... [humor] (1)

twivel (89696) | more than 13 years ago | (#417242)

Hey, Mr. Artist, I see you're taking a break. It must be to go get me that Dr. Pepper I'm thirsty for. Hurry up, so you can get back to work again.

what is art? (1)

Zimm (94553) | more than 13 years ago | (#417243)

Well, there is a further classification if you will in art. Artist and artisain. Art isn't something that is beautiful to look at, it must have "meaning" to be art Much art has no beauty, maybe it is even sickening, but it has a message for the viewer. An artisain is interested in conveying beauty/elegance. This is why art movements like abstract expressionism are art, and wildlife "art" isn't. So I would disagree that code could ever be art, maybe it's sometimes beautiful, but its not art. So if video game art has to have meaning to be art, are the people creating it artists? Probably not. They are artisians. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it is really an important distinction for society to have.

Re:You are ignoring other important questions (2)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 13 years ago | (#417248)

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.

Why not merge? (1)

BlueMonk (101716) | more than 13 years ago | (#417256)

I don't know about other programmers, but I tend to be (or try to be) a "renaissance man" when it comes to game programming. I do all my own music, sound effects, graphics, map editing, coding, documentation etc. Of course if you have a big project and a deadline, one person probably can't handle it all. But for a person with a vision, I think the best product comes from one single coherent mind, not from multiple people trying to fit their respective pieces together based on some arbitrary separations/standards (there's a lot of overhead in person-hours dealing with that kind of thing).

I think it's a good idea for the programmer to practice art. Programmers aren't inherently non-artists... many just tend to spend a lot more time practicing coding and a lot less time drawing. Anyone can play around with graphics software and music composition on a computer. Not only does this make one better able to create a complete product on their own, but it would also be great practice in being part of a team where the work *does* need to be split up. If you have such people working on all aspects of a product, they can better understand and more quickly deal with others' aspects of a project. When anyone has a really brilliant inspiration, it's best to minimize the boundaries preventing them from realizing that, even if it's not their *supposed* area of expertise.

Practically, though, I don't suppose you run across a lot of experts covering such a wide range. I myself focus more on programming (which is why my Scrolling Game Development Kit [] doesn't come with a whole lot of sound effects or graphics). I think what one has to do is just find people with the appropriate experience. Maybe you can't expect a particular artist to design map graphics because of the technical limitations involved (maybe the particular artist can't work in the confines of graphics that have to be tilable). And maybe the programmer isn't qualified to draw anything. The terms "Artist" and "programmer" don't necessarily fit well into every project and maybe you need to be asking for "technical artists" or "texture designers". Maybe your map editor should have some concept of plot... fitting the world into an exciting story. The categories of people you look for need to fit the project. I think the biggest distance between any "artist" and any "programmer" is simply practice. Ideally the person who is designing maps for a new project is someone who has practiced exactly that and knows how to deal with the technical and artistic aspects of that task.

you're mistaken (2)

rodentia (102779) | more than 13 years ago | (#417257)

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.

Coding as an outlet for creativity (1)

tjgrant (108530) | more than 13 years ago | (#417262)

I have always wanted to be creative. When I was growing up I wanted to draw or paint in the worst way. Unfortunately, I couldn't draw worth a darn. In high school I majored in drafting, and did OK there.

It was in high school that I had my first experiences with a computer. I saw that computer at the end of a 300 baud modem, I learned BASIC. I found that I could create!

As my education progressed, I discovered that the most the really good coders viewed themselves as artists more than engineers.

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

Stand Fast,

Re:You are ignoring other important questions (1)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 13 years ago | (#417263)

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."

Functionality and art aren't always at opposite ends of the spectrum. Take carpentry, for example. While one could easily make a chair out of a few 2x4's nailed together and painted, it would be unappealing and not that challenging. Instead you're likely to see exotic woods used, with stains or vanishes selected because they accentuate the natural beauty of the wood. The legs of such a chair might've been worked in a lathe. You could argue that it's not a work of art, but I believe the builder would disagree with you. Art and functionality don't have to be opposites, and I believe that if you can find beauty in something you've made, you've probably done a good job.

I'll agree that there's somethings that functionality (and usually cost) is the only thing that matters. An architect designing an office building, for instance, probably won't include any elegant or beautiful designs in his or her work, since cost and functionality would be the primary concerns. On the other hand, if that architect was designing an individual's residence, elegance in the design would probably be a primary concern.

Useless opinions on art (2)

localman (111171) | more than 13 years ago | (#417265)

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.

Defer to Frank Zappa... (3)

Satai (111172) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Categorie (1)

Zephyre (111710) | more than 13 years ago | (#417267)

I don't understand why you need to classify map makers, couldn't you say that they are in their own category? Why do you need to categorize a field, it doesn't serve a purpose.

Programming : art :: barnraising : architecture (1)

graybeard (114823) | more than 13 years ago | (#417270)

Quite different things here.

The goal of an artist is to create a work which will produce an emotional response from the viewer (auditor, etc.)
The goal of a programmer is create an algorithm which produces certain states in a computer.

Now, one may admire the cleverness of an algorithm, or the soundness of a barn, but this doesn't make either into art.

Programming is not a form of art. (1)

CarbonBoy (114932) | more than 13 years ago | (#417273)

My definition of art is something that can convey some emotion to the viewer. Yes, you can have elegant, creative, even beautiful code, but you can't really portray anger or love or fear with a piece of code.

It is or it isn't, depending on what "art" is (1)

SwornPacifist (121005) | more than 13 years ago | (#417278)

Programming is art in the sense that the engine in a Mercedes is art. It is the fact that it runs so smoothly is quite beautiful, but the beauty is derived from the fact that it was created very well, and performs fluidly.

Programming is not art in the sense that you can print out the raw code and hang it in a frame, and have it appreciated by non-programmers (be it artists or not).

So it all derives on what you view as "art."

Re:artist programmer (1)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 13 years ago | (#417279)

Well.. I know "web development" is a far cry from game development, but ive done extensive amounts of the former.

We have a graphics department. They HAVE to know the parameters they have to work with in a browser, and they have to work somewhat closely with us on exaclty what is possible with graphics in a broswer, and what works, and what does not.

Letting a creative design user interface is a double edged sword. Most of the time form over functioanlity is stressed, it looks just perfect this way. Yeah sure it looks perfect but the users cant really use it. Some of the time you get some real creative interfaces that are really great.

But our rule as software developers is to leave the interface design to us. We work more closely with people who use the software, we get the feedback we handle the coding of the UI.

We take suggestions but in the end we stress functionality in our design, not form.

I am not a incredibly creative or artisticily inclined person. I am *okay* from practice but some people are born more creative than others, that is a fact :-p

Very good graphics people tend to be abstract thinkers in my opinon as that is what i observe with most graphics people. Programmers tend to be incredibly anylitical. I think the latter combined with the amount of work closely we do with so many interfaces to computer programs it grants a software developer a much better idea of what is good at design time as far as UI functionality goes.

The bounds of a graphic designer are limitless. Everything on the web would be neat perfectly formed videos graphics people created if it were possible. It is not. Working with web developers these boundaries have to be learned and the graphics process must be based on the boundaries of the system you are working with, there is a fine balance and some give/take has to be done. To an artist a one pixel deviation in just the right spot can be like you throwing away their entire design.. (An exaggeration but not much).

So there is a balance, I think UI is best left to programmers ultimately, with strong help and feedback from graphics people the whole way you can end up with a nice and flashy product that still remains functional. It is possible and most everyones comes out pretty happy in the end.


Art versus Craft (1)

chrisreedy (127131) | more than 13 years ago | (#417283)

What is an art? (as opposed to Art)

A good definition (I wish I could claim authorship): An art is something where the personality, creativity, etc. of the individual doing the work strongly influences the quality, usability, etc. of the end product. Otherwise, you have a craft. Painting a landscape is an art. Painting your house is a craft.

By this definition, programming, web site design, game design, etc. are clearly arts and not crafts.

Re:A big difference (1)

SpanishInquisition (127269) | more than 13 years ago | (#417284)

What a troll!
Let me tell you something : real artists pay attention to every details. Try to find a mistake in Bach.

Oh cripes, everyone's an artist (1)

tony clifton (134762) | more than 13 years ago | (#417286)

I spent a few years doing game programming (fairly low salary, high stress, long hours, not recommended) and the only relation to the artists is that the programmers worked with them.

If you're doing your job right, you're spending your time buried in MSDN CD's, doing the simplest thing which could work, and installing your software on as many different hardware/OS combinations as you can find... because DirectX can act differently.

The only thing expected of you is to get things done on time and competently. Don't crash, keep the framerate up, don't do anything weird. Reaching that level of transparent simplicity is actually quite hard, most progammers can't do it. But I wouldn't call it art. And -- oh yeah -- nobody cares about how well factored or designed your code is, because the bits are going to get burned on a CD, and that's the primary focus. Will it get done on time? That's the question.

The creative people (and it's not you, you don't have time) write a script which gets approved by a publisher. That's where all the cool ideas which people appreciate come from. And the Photoshop and 3DStudio jockeys -- the artist -- they make decisions about the look, usually the script'll have a bit of discression for them.

But in terms of creative interaction? Well -- if you're supporting 8-bit graphics, you'll spend a fair amount of time convincing the artists why they should use the same palette on all their bitmaps. And that you need to change it at the last minute.

In terms of creativity -- I've had a lot more satisfaction doing business and web programming. In those realms, a good O-O design is seen as an asset and not just "geek talk".

Re:I don't think so. (1)

Kotetsu (135021) | more than 13 years ago | (#417287)

You raise a good point. Programming (coding) is not an art any more than the skill involved in painting or sculpture is an art. The results are art. The act of a painter moving a paint-laden brush about over a canvas isn't (ordinarily) art (let's not worry about performance artist painters), but the results on the canvas afterward is. Similarly, the act of coding a program is not art, but the resulting program is. And, just as paintings vary considerably in how good they are as art, so do programs vary over a large range. Also, just as individual tastes in paintings or sculpture vary, so they will with programs.

Its really quite simple (1)

typedef (139123) | more than 13 years ago | (#417291)

Most art really boils down to self-expression, so if you write code to express yourself, then you are an artist.

Re:Proof that Geeks Don't Understand Art. (3)

Brownstar (139242) | more than 13 years ago | (#417292)

I'm sure Van Gogh was a hit with the ladies (particularily after he cut off his ear.)

Re:This is masturbatory (1)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 13 years ago | (#417293)

Your response is a bit over the top, but I tend to agree. Programming is a science. There are specific ways (algorithms) to solve specific problems. Programming is governed by logic, not emotion.


What about printer music? (3) (142825) | more than 13 years ago | (#417294)

What about programs that make your line printer play Jingle Bells" or the theme from Mission Impossible?

Software Engineering (1)

gunner800 (142959) | more than 13 years ago | (#417295)

You don't find many "programmer" jobs at the really competitive companies anymore. It's all "software engnineer" or some such. By the time you actually write any code, you've gone through an explicit process and you basically just have to convert UML or other design documents into source code.

The art is intentionally being taken out of the process for programmers. Kind of sad, but it does seem to result in a better product.

My mom is not a Karma whore!

Absolutely right. (2)

alleria (144919) | more than 13 years ago | (#417296)

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.

You wiss the point (2)

Srin Tuar (147269) | more than 13 years ago | (#417297)

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.

Everyone's a bit of a programmer (1)

zaius (147422) | more than 13 years ago | (#417298)

Except for the texture artists... (?) everyone is a programmer. Now the engine designer is a bit more of a programmer than the level editor, but everyone is in a way.

Now the real question is: are webmasters programmers (HTML?)?

Re:Art (3)

Kingfox (149377) | more than 13 years ago | (#417299)

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*

mmmmm ... semantics (1)

Paolomania (160098) | more than 13 years ago | (#417306)

IMO, an artist is one who creates works of wit or insight for the inspiration or enjoyment of some group of persons. This definition does not rule out the programmer as an artist, for surely code can be written that will be enjoyed by some group of people (for example: directly enjoyment of code through clever obfuscation, or the indirect enjoyment of code through a videogame). Thus programming can be considered another medium for artistic expression.

Of course, not all programers are artists, just as not everyone who uses a pencil is an artist. The key lies in the intent.

Neo Art Deco??? (1)

CrazyBob (166473) | more than 13 years ago | (#417310)

So if programming is an art, and it obviously has its practical/utilitarian purposes--would the genre be neo art deco? ;)

Hell throw the concept of a digital divide in to the mix and the neo existentialists will really have a field day tearing it apart as a means of expression.

Re:Proof that Geeks Don't Understand Art. (2)

CrazyBob (166473) | more than 13 years ago | (#417311)

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. ;)

Art (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#417316)

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

I can mostly agree that well-written code is art, in the sense that good archetecture is art...

But I have never seen anybody's code that rivaled the elegance of Beethoven.

Charles Ives, maybe.

Re:A big difference (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#417317)

Some would say that Perl does not require much attention to detail either, and that mistakes can be incorporated into the work. :)

Re:Absolutely right. (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#417318)

Ask your prof if Frank Lloyd Wright was an artist.

If he says "yes", then you can point out that art sometimes applies to that which has a function.

If he says "no", then drop out of his class and never listen to anything he says again. Seriously.

Art is a creative work (1)

FuzzyHairBall (176978) | more than 13 years ago | (#417320)

I think that programming can be Art and is depending on how it is done. Someone that creates a piece of code to work towards not only a working program but an elegant design and easily readable code is an artist. while there are others that don't care they go to work pump out some reasonable code that works and care not about the elegance readabilty or simplicity. these are just mere coders. An analogy might be that anyone can take a roller and paint the walls of a house but it takes an artistic talent to make painting of a house.

The answer is "MU" (2)

BitHerder (180499) | more than 13 years ago | (#417331)

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.

ALL Engineering is art. (1)

uglyhead69 (186990) | more than 13 years ago | (#417334)

Blacksmiths, Cobblers, Architects, Database Engineers, Layout Designers, Stone Masons, Landscapers, and C programmers are all Artisans. All of the have Kung Fu (Skill through effort) that is used to create things.

While some think that only PURE art (Art created for expressive purposes only) is the only TRUE form of art, I think such people are nincompoops and I am entitled to my opinion. I am an engineer. I am an artisan. I create things that serve a purpose but they have beauty in their structure.

Classic "Art" is dead (2)

Trevor Goodchild (187368) | more than 13 years ago | (#417335)

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.

Fine Arts and Programming are both learned skills (1)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 13 years ago | (#417337)

It all depends on your definition of art.

Art of any kind is a learned skill. A few people in the world have a very natural inclation towards it, but most of the time, whether it's programming or painting, anyone can learn to do it. Some people have a 'knack' for the abstract, and some have an innate grasp of logic and numbers. People who claim they are un-artistic are usually underestimating the human capacity to create and have never been encouraged to do so themselves.

If you define an art as a skilled trade - then yes, programmers are always artists, especially programmers who can finish an entire piece of code that is both useful and elegant.

In my profession as a 3D animator, it is required that the artisan have a very rare combination of skills, both technical computer literacy and a very thorough understanding of perception, color, light, composition and aesthetics - the kind of thing that you learn as a student of the fine arts.

3D Animators and 2D compositors vary widely between those that have more technical than aesthetic skills, and some who have an amazing quantity of both. Some of the most useful and valuable animators and programmers are shader writers. This is the point at which nature and math come crashing together, for nature is really a series of deeply interwoven, extremely complex and infinitely repeatable mathematical patterns. Some examples of shader writers are people who author fur shaders, complex particle systems, nature shaders such as fractal plant, tree and undergrowth geometry generators, liquid particle systems and volumetric alg implementations for clouds, smoke, water and fire.

These programmer/animators not only understand the math behind these phenomena, they can also tweak the effect to look correct to the eye and make it applicable to use on screen. The raw math behind natural phenomena doesn't always give you the indended result, so you still need to know what it's supposed to 'look' like to the human eye, and why.

I myself am not a programmer, I use other people's programs and shaders to create things, but my 'art' would not be possible without their end of the equation.


Mike Massee

Art vs. Code (2)

fantom_winter (194762) | more than 13 years ago | (#417341)

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)

as always with art... (1)

Technodummy (204943) | more than 13 years ago | (#417352)

beauty is in the eye of the beholder

depends (2)

KevinMS (209602) | more than 13 years ago | (#417357)

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.

Re:This is masturbatory (1)

update() (217397) | more than 13 years ago | (#417362)

You're right, of course. But given that Slashdot recently had a multipart Jon Katz discourse on video gamers, featuring such gems as:

gamers are often independent, strategic-thinkers and problem solvers. Their interactive instincts often collide unhappily with the traditions and institutions of a static, passive world. Gamers are the new artists, visionaries, and story-tellers of our time, sparked by astonishingly inventive new technologies like the PS 2. Ready or not, they will become increasingly influential.


Historians and sociologists call the adult world's response to gaming a "moral panic," defined as a severe societal response to a dramatic development that elders and institutions can't control or understand, so therefore demonize and fear. Even before this, the young are increasingly coming to believe that older people have less and less to teach them.

and given that Katz routinely uses that sort of language to describe Napster kiddies, IM users and generally surly teenagers, why shouldn't people who actually know how to use their computers get a little stroking too?

Re:Absolutely right. (1)

Jonathan Walls (218026) | more than 13 years ago | (#417365)

For the most part, I would say that's true. But you have to make sure you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater - engravings and the like are valid artworks even if the medium happens to be a sword blade.

Likewise, a "weapon" that is ornamental rather than functional in intention (even if it does happen to be razor sharp) might be considered artwork; an area where the word "craft" often comes into play.

this is silly (3)

zephc (225327) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.


Just because it's useful... (1)

riedquat (226343) | more than 13 years ago | (#417377)

doesn't mean it isn't art. I think computer hardware and software can be as expressive a medium as oil paint, sculpture or poetry but I think a lot of people regard it as purely functional because it is so useful.

Imagine two news stories: both communicate the same information about an event, but one is well written and one isn't. Functionally, they're equivalent, but one is more artistic (by my definition of artistic, anyway). Both are examples of the same medium, but I don't know of any newspaper reporters who are as well respected as poets.

From my own experience the parts of computer programming that are most artistic are those without an obvious purpose - INTERCAL and wmDiscoTux (XMMS plugin) spring to mind. Artistic programmers stop being artistic when their employers tell them just to produce functionally correct code; then they're programming to get a paycheck, not for the sake of programming.

Another problem is visibility, of course - if no-one's going to inspect your source code to notice that you shaved 4ms off a loop using some of the most elegant, cunning self-modifying code, then the motivation for doing it falls away.

BTW I don't mean to imply that other forms of art aren't useful, just (IMHO) less so.

Re:Proof that Geeks Don't Understand Art. (3)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 13 years ago | (#417380)

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.

crossing the line (1)

ynohoo (234463) | more than 13 years ago | (#417383)

I used to get my kicks painting (see ) but now I get 'em cutting COBOL (keep your sniggers to yourself). The main difference for me is code lacks a spiritual element. Even graphics software tools lack the "bite" and immediacy of physical media. I know some have sucessfully emulated it ( i.e. Fractal Paint), but it is just emulation, and leaves very little room for intuition. I suspect we will need to move beyond 2d display before this situation improves.

You are ignoring other important questions (5)

OlympicSponsor (236309) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Like art, you need education to appreciate code. (1)

YaRness (237159) | more than 13 years ago | (#417390)

Even more so than art, you need to have some education relative to the field, and medium, to appreciate an author's work. Even among programmers this is necessary: imagine trying to get a BASIC programmer to appreciate a slick Perl snippet at a single glance.

Artist/Programmer (1)

BeulahGirl (237681) | more than 13 years ago | (#417392)

I am an artist. I paint. I draw. I make a lot of "stuff" in general. I am also a programmer. Making a painting and making a program share more similarities than some may think. There is an algorithm. There is a starting point. When making a painting, the details don't get done first. The background, the rough outlines, the sketching and the study need to be done before the eyelashes of the subject. This is similar to the way software is written. The core of the code is usually done first. The backbones of the objects are written before they are enhanced or used in most cases. However, in my opinion, visual art and programming differ because I do them for different reasons. I may paint something to express an emotion. I code something for a more practical get a job done or to make a customer's life easier. However, practicality and beauty cross paths quite often in real life, as well as in code. Would you rather have a plain white pitcher or one painted with stripes or floral patterns? Would you rather sleep on unbleached cotton sheets or your favorite plaid ones? Would you rather write and use code that simply gets the job done, or design an elegant system that performs efficiently, accurately, and is enjoyable to use?

They're all artists (1)

SanLouBlues (245548) | more than 13 years ago | (#417402)

The jist of it is, programming isn't as much art because the end goals are defined and refined continually throughout. The artsy stuff is artsy because the end result is not predetermined. Sure it's gonna be a tree, but it could be cartoony or real. And it's not gonna be pretty to everyone. Of course I've seen some butt ugly code, but that's not the end product. What the code produces is the end product.

Art is a way of expressing yourself (3)

Verne (249617) | more than 13 years ago | (#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...

A map creator is an architect (1)

Hizagashira (251717) | more than 13 years ago | (#417407)

A map creator is neither an artist nor programmer.
To be a programmer, you have to program.

If an architect falls into the category of "artist" to you, since it is entirely opinionated, then they are an artist.
You could, I guess, construe them as designers, if they designed the map they create.

"I speak braille. Touch me."

Addendum: A map creator is an architect (1)

Hizagashira (251717) | more than 13 years ago | (#417408)

Also, on the subject of interface creation...
The person who comes up with it "designed" it.
The person who does the art for it, if it has art, is the "artist".
The person who programmed it is the "programmer".

If the same person does more than one of these, he (or she) falls into multiple categories.

Re:You are ignoring other important questions (1)

Mr. Bubbles712 (254513) | more than 13 years ago | (#417410)

true, they are two different jobs, but they aren't that different. If anyone has ever seen "Picasso at the LaPeige(sp)" or read the book, you would see that they are more related than you think.

The book is about one night when Picasso runs into Einstine, and they carry on a conversation which is about "what is Art?" Einstine believs that his works are art, and so does Picasso. So who's right?

Answer: they both are. They were two of the most influental minds of the 20th century.
Now just like artist trying to copy Picasso's works, we have people trying to copy Carmack's works, or Woz's wonders. I believe, and will always aslong as I have a keyboard infront of me, that programers are artists, as are highlevel mathamatitions(sp?) and physists. So to paraphrase me, "if you can do, then show me something I haven't seen before.

but that's just my opinion, I could be wrong

And another good question (1)

digidave (259925) | more than 13 years ago | (#417414)

This question can be applied to other areas as well and I think even moreso to web development. Most of the time, a web developer is asked to design a web site's layout as well as program it, while the artist's job is to provide the developer with graphics to slap into place.

Ideally, the artist should develop a site's layout with Dreamweaver or some other tool and the programmer should adapt that layout into their code. Why is it that this rarely happens?

To paraphrase Jonathan Winters... (1)

Gruneun (261463) | more than 13 years ago | (#417415)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... and have you seen those beholders? They're ugly!

Artist have only one required attribute... (2)

Gruneun (261463) | more than 13 years ago | (#417416)

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.

The "Line" is a mile wide and gray. (1)

channels you (262064) | more than 13 years ago | (#417417)

I assert that there is no line, and that one cannot even say that some programmers "easily" fall on one side or the other.

For example, an elegant user interface, by the very definition, is a combination of art and human engineering. Elegant code can certainly be called "art", while sloppy code can be likened to those famous fingerpaintings made by apes.

This is another good argument that can be used to illustrate why Copyright laws are so much more appropriate to software than patents. Only "design" patents even remotely approach applicability to software, and those only thinly, if at all.

While I would not say that some of my own programming efforts constitute great art, I certainly consider others to be artistic. I have put a great deal of creative effort into them.

Still life (2)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 13 years ago | (#417418)

Well, if programming is art than I'm definitely a still life piece since I do nothing at work!

creative != artistic (1)

bay43270 (267213) | more than 13 years ago | (#417420)

Programming is creative by nature, but being creative is not the same as being an artist. That would be like saying I am religious, just because I keep an open mind to the possibility of a higher power. Such a person would be spiritual. Religious implies they have a belief system. Describing someone as artistic implies the person is creating as a means of communicating feelings or ideas. Programmers are creative, but their end goal isn't based on expression (although how we get to the end goal may very well be an expression). This is, of course, just my opinion. I do believe some code is written as an art form (code for the sake of expression), but it is rare (those wonderful multiplying perl camels pop into my mind -

Algorithm as art (1)

abucior (306728) | more than 13 years ago | (#417431)

Ken Musgrave has spent a lot of time exploring the concept of algorithm as art. His "Algorists" page is here [] .

(creativity || ego) != art (1)

limboman (307079) | more than 13 years ago | (#417432)

So because programmers have more direct impact on society, they are the 'real' artists? I don't understand how you equate the effect of a work on society with whether or not something is art. I'm sure your perl scripts are great and everything, but to call an eCommerece app 'art' while dismissing 'a few splashes of paint on a canvas' is outlandish. Pride in your work is one thing, but calling it art is another thing.

Programming more like engineering - identifying a need and filling it using availiable assets. Sure, there's creativity involved, but no one's ever going to go to the 'Code Museum' and look at your code/app for its own sake.

You propose that art is a reflection of the world we live in. Is programming a reflection of the world we live in, or is it a part of that world? I'd argue the latter - no one is going to reflect on his/her cultural beliefs or the absurdity of life while buying a pair of sneakers over the internet. Well, they might, but only because buying a pair of sneakers over the internet is kind of absurd in and of itself. I certainly won't reflect on how many lines of code it took to implement the app.

I get tired of seeing terms that used to have meaning bastardized for the use of the technology industry. Maybe the only thing 'artistic' about most programs is the ego of their creators.

All code is art (1)

oooga (307220) | more than 13 years ago | (#417433)

When I design a web page, there are two artistic elements involved. There is the interface and the back end. Two me, these two parts' aesthetics are equally important. A lot of the web pages I build could be made in Netscape Composer. But that would be Michaelangelo hiring an apprentice to paint the Sistine Chapel. Okay, maybe I've stretched the metaphor a bit, but you get the point. Similarly, I have friends who make nifty looking sites, but they do it entirely in Flash or Shockwave. Those web sites aren't art, because they are just pictures. They don't take advantage of all of the wonderful things HTML and dHTML can do. In the digital world, the structure of something, that is, what you can't see, is as important as what you can. All programmers, coders, etc, or at least all good ones, are artists.

Re:Everyone's a bit of a programmer (1)

AX.25 (310140) | more than 13 years ago | (#417438)

"Now the real question is: are webmasters programmers (HTML?)?"

Depends, if the webmaster has to go to a class to understand HTML then they are just plain stupid and shouldn't be in a computer related field in the first place. (Yes, I know people like this and I get sick everytime I have to talk to them.)

artist programmer (1)

stigmatic (310472) | more than 13 years ago | (#417439)

I'm not a programmer but I would think the information is shared between the programmer of the game, and the artist. In order to know how to create a particular scene in a game, the artist will need to know how the game is to be played, while on the other hand, the programmer will need to know how the graphics are drawn in order to code the game.

Its almost a give the programmer is swamped in code so they wouldn't be able to focus on the graphics, and vice versa, so I'm thinking some gaming companies have created their own propietary software to allow both the artist and the programmers to interact with themselves regarding code, and art.

hot game chicks []

Art is alive... (1)

dissipative_struct (312023) | more than 13 years ago | (#417443)

I assure you. Whether it's post-modern, popular, good, bad, ugly or indifferent, there's plenty of art out there. A child scrawling with crayons on a piece of paper is "art", and if someone wants to consider their program to be "art", sure, why not. The real question is: is it any good? The answer: Depends on who's looking at it. There are certain pieces of "art" that are very widely believed to be "good" or "great", but this just happens to be a consensus opinion. Personally, I like to judge art by the emotional experience it creates for me... by my interpretation, Beethoven's 5th is a wonderful piece of art, while your Perl script is terrible (although I may appreciate the great programming job you've done, for me personally, that just doesn't make it good art. Someone else probably feels differently).

There's tons of "art" in the world, and just because something is "art" doesn't mean it really has any value, any more than a child's drawing does. Is programming art? Sure. Are there any programs that are "good" art? Purely a matter of opinion...

I agree. (1)

SumDeusExMachina (318037) | more than 13 years ago | (#417455)

Certainly, there is also that fact that a programmer's work is also by its nature boring to people who don't have an intimate knowledge of the field. I would hardly think that a lay person would find FreeBSD kernel internals interesting, beautiful, or even coherent. While most people are emotionally or otherwise affected by the traditional arts (I'm sure a lot of you know of a song that is particularly close to your heart), most people frankly don't give a damn about computer programming.

Think about it. Many people converse primarily about their field of expertise. The fact that almost everyone doesn't care about programming makes for some very boring people. When was the last time you saw a very dry and boring person get laid?
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