Aarseth on Computer Aesthetics

Several new textual genres have emerged with digital computing and automation. Computer programs, complex lists of formal instructions written in specially designed, artificial languages, can be seen as a new type of the rhetorical figure apostrophe, the addressing of inanimate or abstract objects, with the magical difference that it actually provokes a response. Short, simple programs are often linear, but longer programs generally consist of collections of interdependent fragments, with repeating loops, cross-references, and discontinuous “jumps” back and forth between sections. [...]

Programs are normally written with two kinds of receivers in mind: the machines and other programers. This gives rise to a double standard of aesthetics, often in conflict: efficiency and clarity. Since speed is a major quality in computer aesthetics, an unreadable program might perform much faster than a comprehensible one. The poetics of computer program writing is constantly evolving, and through paradigms such as object orientation it inspires practical philosophies and provides hermeneutic models for organizing and understanding the world, both directly (through programed systems) and indirectly (through the worldviews of computer engineers).

From Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Espen J. Aarseth (p11). Emphasis mine.

Posted on 2010-01-26 at 21:51. trackback