February 23, 2004

Fear of Code

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 12:09 am

“The Enemy Within” is a basically informative — if unexciting — overview article about viruses and worms in the Sunday Observer. But someone appears to have decided that stating the article’s topic honestly wasn’t going to cut it. Hence the headline, and these two sentences that ended up just under it:

He’s 21, he’s got dreadlocks, likes punk bands… and his hobby could wreck your computer in seconds. Clive Thompson infiltrates the secret world of the virus writers who see their work as art – while others fear that it is cyber-terrorism

Apparently the government aren’t the only people in London who like to sex up documents and draw questionable ties to terrorism. But what interests me is how fully the folks at the Observer seem to have missed the point their interviewee was trying to make in their final paragraph. He doesn’t release malicious software into the wild. He views creating an innovative worm, and doing it with elegant code, as “like art.” This is presented as though we’re supposed to find it baffling or frightening. I’m more baffled by the way it’s reported. Haven’t we already established, culturally, that innovative software and elegant code are very much like art?

Correction: What I found on the Observer site appears to be an oddly-truncated version of a more interesting-looking article (with some interesting-looking comments as well).