The art of code

2002 2002

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Abstract (summary)

The Art of Code originates at the nexus of literature's and computing culture's related but distinct aesthetic systems. 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. The 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. As such, the dissertation's three chapters work together to provide both an aesthetic history of computing culture and a related analysis of how programming aesthetics can inform modern criticism. Chapter One outlines a range of historical, technological, philosophical, political, and legal conceptions of what software is, focusing on how those conceptions have shaped our ideas about how software should be written, distributed, and protected. Chapter Two discusses the aesthetic history of code, examining the importance of the literary ideal to programming culture. Chapter Three examines the intersections between modern programming theory and the authorial practices employed by James Joyce, arguing that understanding computer programming as a literary technique, a mode of writing with inherent artistic capabilities, enables a powerful re-imagining of the complex linguistic and structural experiments Joyce conducts in Finnegans Wake. Concluding with a reconsideration of Martin Heidegger's conceptions of technē and poiēsis, The Art of Code aims to initiate philosophical inquiry into the complex, dynamic interrelationship between the semantics of computer programming and of literature.

Indexing (details)

0298: Literature
Identifier / keyword
Language, literature and linguistics; Aesthetics; Code; Computing history; Programming
The art of code
Black, Maurice Joseph
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 63/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780493928661, 0493928669
Mahaffey, Vicki
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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