May 18, 2005

The Art of Code

by Nick Montfort · , 1:15 am

Black, Maurice J. 2002 “The Art of Code.” PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. [Department of English.]

As the abstract says:

Arguing that software’s increasing abstraction from hardware has defined computer programming practices for the last half-century, this dissertation shows how that abstraction has shaped the aesthetics, politics, and professional culture of programming. Specifically, the dissertation examines how some programmers have adopted a literary approach to coding, describing carefully crafted code as “beautiful,” “elegant,” “expressive,” and “poetic”; writing and reading programs as literary texts; and even producing hybrid artifacts that are at once poems and programs. This project has two central goals: first, to show how identifiably linguistic sensibilities have influenced programming theory and culture; second, to show how programming theory, as a body of knowledge that thinks deeply about the semantics and organization of textual structures, can contribute to the project of literary study.

I’ve just posted my extensive notes from reading this intriguing dissertation.