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Why Linguists Are True Code Artists

Filed Under Thought Stuff

After reading a few chapters of Software Creativity 2.0, my post Software Engineer vs. Code Artist came to mind. With abundant talk about how creativity is art, I thought there must be one example even I (in my dogmatic ideal) could agree is an example of code artistry – linguists.

Computer languages are as elegant as spoken languages with an additional twist of mathematical beauty. People like Alan Kay and Dennis Ritchie are pivotal to the evolution of computer languages. Smalltalk and C are cornerstone languages even today in modern OO languages such as Java and C#. This means, by nature, the maximum elegance of any solution is bound by the language that we use to create it.

This is a very important point to make because if we boil everything down to linguistics we will find that there exists both practitioners and artists. For example, I am bound to writing in the English language. As a result, I am reduced to what I can fully represent even while writing this post. Furthermore, just because I am using the English language does not imply that I am an artist or even a good practitioner of it.

This is where I come back around full circle. In Software Engineer vs. Code Artist I was brash saying we are not artists. Developers need to wear both hats of engineer and artist. However, I will debate that every developer does not have the right to call themselves an artist when most are not even good practitioners. If literature has writers (that write grammatically correct and artistically) then code must first have engineers and then artists. It is improbable that great artistic pieces of code can be produced by someone who as not mastered the grammatical aspects of their language or understand best engineering practices.

Art is the product of passion. Passionate developers learn new engineering processes. In turn, it will be the passionate engineer that turns into the artist.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Why Linguists Are True Code Artists”

  1. Natalie (Oxagile Software Outsourcing) on July 17th, 2007 2:36 am

    Awesome! Thanks -)

    Being a linguist (at least I’m supposed to be ;-)I cannot but agree to that.

    And luckily, here at Oxagile we have both or I’d better say ‘all in one’ – artistic developers with a wealth of practical experience.

  2. Tejesh on August 1st, 2007 6:44 am

    When I first read your original post about engg vs artist..I was little upset where you called software engineer aren’t code artist..but I didnt comment on the post because every person has a right to have an opinion…but this post speaks out exactly what I feel about software engineers (one who has mastered the language enough to write creative product)..

    good one…

  3. Chuck on March 20th, 2008 11:15 am

    I agree with Tejesh. I was a little bothered that the linguistic craft of code could not indeed be considered an art form. However, with the additional caveat that a true artist arrives at his art by first mastering technique; often through many, many failures, and lessons. Even DaVinci must have had to master technique first before he was publicly considered an artist. I believe, though, that the artist was always there…it was the production, the medium, and the public judgment thereafter that earned him the title.

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