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Hackers: The Art of Abstraction 130

scubacuda writes "Wired: Inspired by McKenzie Wark's The Hacker Manifesto , Madrid's MNCARS's exhibit, Hackers: The Art of Abstraction , explores the connections between hackers, artists and anyone engaged in any kind of creative work. The centerpiece of the exhibition are documentary films and videos made by independent filmmakers and hackers from all over the world, including Freedom Downtime by Emmanuel Goldstein, Free Radio by Kevin Kayser, The Hacktivist by Ian Walker, Unauthorized Access by Annaliza Savage, New York City Hackers by Stig-Lennart Serensen and Hippies From Hell by Inne Pope."
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Hackers: The Art of Abstraction

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  • CHAOS (Score:2, Insightful)

    Chaos is what drives the creative process, I believe it was Heidegger that said that All Creation is Destruction, which makes sense because when you create something you destroy its original state, the unadulterated, virginal state before creation!
    • Re:CHAOS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:19AM (#8428201) Homepage Journal
      "Chaos is what drives the creative process"

      It really depends on what you are trying to create. If you want to create strictly art then maybe chaos drives teh creative process but much of the creative process is due to there being something needed to be created. Like something an engineer creates. An engineers creating something has little to do with Chaos and a lot to do with structure.
      • Re:CHAOS (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Alephcat ( 745478 )
        somthing that an engineer makes has everything to do with chaos, it is making a "stable" state out of chaos. Yes the engineer makes something that is needed, but you have to have chaos for it to be needed.
        • Re:CHAOS (Score:3, Interesting)

          by millahtime ( 710421 )
          "it is making a "stable" state out of chaos"

          When the microwave was invented was it chaos? Or was it someone wanted a quicker way to cook? The tools to do the same things already existed but weren't as easy. Where is the chaos in that?
          • "When the microwave was invented was it chaos? Or was it someone wanted a quicker way to cook? The tools to do the same things already existed but weren't as easy. Where is the chaos in that?"

            my meaning was that the materials the things were made of were in a state of chaos, do you find microwave cookers just growing from the ground?

          • Chaos, definetly (Score:3, Interesting)

            by trezor ( 555230 )

            The Microwave heating abilities were discovered when fried pigeons kept falling down around a radar-center somwhere. (No, I didn't bother to google)

            It was definetly not an invention out of a ingenious mind, more like a random discovery when doing something completely unrelated.

            Out of chaos/not-chaos, this would have to be chaos. But I'd rather say coincidental.

      • Re:CHAOS (Score:3, Insightful)

        by moveax ( 576707 )
        I have to disagree. Yes, engineering is indeed about creating structure, but that's beyond the point. It's about chaos being the driver of the process, not the result nor target of that process. Creativity is combining things in new and often unexpected ways. You cannot structure that process. You can model creative processes to some extend, but those models will always depend on some randomness, thus on chaos. An example would be a genetic algorithm: this is a creative algorithm, (re)combining existing sol
      • why do you think encryption key generators use keystrokes for randomness? typing on the keyboard creates chaos...it takes the stability of the [computer] system even further from just having it turned on, which is quite chaotic compared to having your computer turned off. The power comes from somewhere, and somewhere up that river things are being destroyed in order to send you electrons so you can turn on the computer, induce a state of chaos and end up with what some might say is a pretty damn good piece
    • That would make the Manhatten Project one of the most creative projects ever then?
    • this can be translated to the very nature of the universe as entropy always is growing. It can be interpreted as chaos of matter. When you try to put some order to something(say boil a kettle or build a tower) you relase energy and increase entropy hence reducing the total order of particles. And with time, the tower will fall and the water will cool, rerelasing all the energy concentrated on it, in a chaotic way. For us, is not chaos what matters, is the order we create, to use, while it holds.
      In a creativ
    • I think that calling it 'chaos' is rather unspecific and unnecessary. Chaos is such a grand and suggestive word: from chaos we were created, and to chaos we will return... it has much religion connotation, and is even used (or alluded to) frequently in the Bible. But what does this statement really mean?

      "Chaos is what drives the creative process." This seems to be true, but we need not use such grandiose terms. If we consider chaos to be simple earthly strife, such as the need for food or better tools
    • Actually, the most important thing I've found in art is the very thing that so many pseudo-artistic/expressive people loathe: limitations.

      The most creative things I've seen/done involved some kind of restriction on the methods, tools, subject, viewpoint, etc.

      In that sensem, it's chaos and limitations, like pouring plaster (chaotic) into a mold (limitation). Like sculpture, it's not what you put in, but what you leave out.
    • Rather, chaos is the raw material of the creative process. We destroy it when we impose the order of our thoughts; we chip off and throw away the parts that don't look like what we envisioned.
    • Actually it is all about the possibility to differentiate. As clear as the bit is the smallest unit of information it is, that the information is 'generated' by the possibility to differ between 0 & 1.

      1
      01
      11
      001
      101
      011
      111

      Immagine 1 as creation, 0 as destruction and read from up to down. Observing one digit's place there is an infinite loop of creation & destruction while advancing the number value as complete.

      Assuming that analogue states unsupported binary resolution, chaos is the most obvious inte
  • by Da Fokka ( 94074 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:08AM (#8428159) Homepage
    Well, maybe for the few true geniuses out there. But for most hackers it's merely a skill, maybe a craft at most.
    • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:11AM (#8428169) Homepage Journal
      " Well, maybe for the few true geniuses out there. But for most hackers it's merely a skill, maybe a craft at most."

      Is it really more of a skill?? The coding itself may be a skill but the way you do it isn't. Sure maybe for your average joe who knows little but for your hacker the way you code can be art. It's your own style and flavor. I guess the way you code could be considered art. Just like writing poetry.
      • You haven't read much poetry, have you? *Most* of it is hacking, not art.

        Hackers do not poets make
        They just don't have the time
        To think for hours upon end
        To make their coding rhyme
      • by Zakabog ( 603757 ) <john@jmCOFFEEaug.com minus caffeine> on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:19AM (#8428204)
        Except in writing poetry, if you throw out every rule in the book, you can create some masterpieces. Nothing has to fit any kind of mold saying "This works and this doesn't."

        When you decide, hey I don't like using loops, lets write 10,000 if statements, you aren't creating art, you're creating a bad program and ugly code. You don't have much freedom in code, I guess you could say efficient code with as few lines as possible is art, but not the same way poetry is an art.
        • by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <twistedgreenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:37AM (#8428282)
          Untrue. You still need to follow some rules, otherwise it'd be complete gibberish. Even if you look at the famous Jabberwocky [jabberwocky.com], rules are followed. The words themselves may be nonsense, but:
          1. They still conform to proper phonemic structure of English;
          2. English grammar is upheld;
          3. The English phonology and alphabet are used;
          4. Rules of poetic structure are upheld (eg. rhyme, meter, etc.).
          Poetry, or indeed any artistic expression, is all about intelligently manipulating a structured system in some creative way. Language is a supreme example of this, and programming can be as well. You cannot throw out every rule, as there would then be no context for understanding the art. Coding is more restrictive than spoken language, but that makes the art of coding all the more esoteric and challenging.

          Ever read The Story of Mel [watson-net.com]?
          • I forgot who it was but there's a famous poet that broke every "rule" in poetry. He wrote one poem that was random letters aranged in a weird shape on a page. If someone just decided to write a bunch of random letters in a nice shape and try to compile it, it wouldn't work. Code must follow certain rules, if it doesn't follow those rules it doesn't work, there's no real freedom in code (ok you can make things like the perl camels but I wouldn't call that code art, it's interesting, but not art.) Anythin
            • by NoOneInParticular ( 221808 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @09:28AM (#8428546)
              The poem you refer to is a perfectly legitemate program in whitespace [dur.ac.uk]. Depending on the use of tabs newlines and spaces in the poem, it might actually do something useful as well.
            • Firstly, he still used letters. That's a restriction.

              Secondly, it would be quite easy (almost trivial, in fact) to write a programming language that could interpret any string of characters as a syntactically legal program. (IIRC Malbolge comes close). The fact that the program wouldn't make any sense semantically shouldn't matter, since the "random letters with weird shape" poem presumably doesn't make much sense either.

              I think that invalidates your conclusion.
            • by trezor ( 555230 )
              • If someone just decided to write a bunch of random letters in a nice shape and try to compile it, it wouldn't work.

              You sir, are mistaken [stud.ntnu.no] :)

              Ok, the letters themselves may not be random, but it's still a nice piece of code!

            • You assume that the program have to compile.

              In your way of thinking, the poem has to compile in a human mind too. The compilation then being that the person in question understands it.
              Just as the majority of humans probably didnt understand that poem, so the majority of computers wont understand random code. However, thanks to drunk and sleepless people like the designers of whitespace that someone pointed out earlier, some computers do understand it.

              Will they interpret it as you meant it? Who knows! Heck
        • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:42AM (#8428306)
          Not entirely true....even in poetry you have to remain within the confines of what defines "poetry". If I just pour some ink on the page, make a big ol' ink blob...that isn't poetry. If I crumple up some paper in a big ball, that isn't poetry. If I cut off my ear and stick it in a plastic box, it isn't poetry. If I run naked through my back yard, it isn't poetry.

          All of that could, possibly, be loosely defined as some sort of art...but not poetry. In order for it to be poetry, you need to obey some basic rules - rules such as writing words on paper. Same thing goes for programming, you need to follow basic rules - such as using valid statements that will actually compile.

          Just because the basic rules in programming are somewhat more strict than those of poetry, does not mean that you cannot be creative or artistic with it.

          yrs,
          Ephemeriis
          • "If I just pour some ink on the page, make a big ol' ink blob...that isn't poetry."

            Nope, it's modern art. Ask Jackson Pollock.

            "If I crumple up some paper in a big ball, that isn't poetry."

            Nope, it's an Origami Boulder. (URL lost; search engine will find it for you.)

            "If I run naked through my back yard, it isn't poetry."

            Nope, it's performance art. JJ Doonesbury will probably sue you for plagiarism.

            See also recent writings on something called "moetry".
          • by quinkin ( 601839 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:28AM (#8429024)
            Not entirely true....

            Not entirely true....
            Even in poetry you have to remain within the confines of what defines "poetry".
            If I just pour some ink on the page, make a big ol' ink blob... that isn't poetry.
            If I crumple up some paper in a big ball, that isn't poetry.
            If I cut off my ear and stick it in a plastic box, it isn't poetry.
            If I run naked through my back yard, it isn't poetry.

            -- by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday March 01, @08:42AM (#8428306)

            Now that's poetry...

            Q.

        • "Except in writing poetry, if you throw out every rule in the book, you can create some masterpieces"

          Sounds like Perl to me...

          Of course, code isn't art if you have coding standards. It's more like plumbing or something.
        • When you decide, hey I don't like using loops, lets write 10,000 if statements, you aren't creating art, you're creating a bad program and ugly code.

          Unless you're using perl, of course. TAMWTO [everything2.com].
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:23AM (#8428223)
        If it's an art, it's more like architecture: you have to conform to strict rules or your code won't compile/building will fall over. There may even be rules imposed by others: coding standards/building regs. Then there's ergonomics to take into account: GUI design/ergonomics of building use.

        But within those restrictions, there's still a lot of freedom to express oneself creatively.
        • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:34AM (#8428274) Homepage Journal
          "it's more like architecture:"

          When designing something it can be both art and architecture. Look at buildings. Many are very artistically done but have great architecture to them. Look at the designs for the new world trade center building. To be the tallest building in the world there is a great amount of detail to the architecture but it is a very beautiful design that is artistically done.
          • You are both thinking of engineering, rather than architecture. While it's true that the latter encapsulates some of the former, there's a reason that the architecture department is part of the School of Fine Arts at most universities.
    • Not because of your reasons but I agree. The act of calling ANYTHING related to precise science "art" can not be anything but a mis(ab)used metaphore. People are getting carried away in their desire to approach science achievements to art.
      • not suer I agree with you. why can science not be art also? science is not as exact as it seems. if you look at the work of artists such as escher. many of their famous artworks are based firmly on mathematical principles (ie strange loops, isomorphism, recursion etc).

        dave
      • Re:Correct. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @09:11AM (#8428461) Journal
        The act of calling ANYTHING related to precise science "art" can not be anything but a mis(ab)used metaphore (sic)

        The mathematician, contributor to the Manhattan Project -- and a founder of modern computing -- John von Neumann, considered by knowledgeable colleagues to have contributed to all fields of mathematics except topology and number theory, disagreed. Describing the qualities of a good mathematical proof, von Neumann wrote :
        One also expects "elegance" in its "architectural," structural make-up. Ease of stating the problem, great difficulty in getting hold of it and in all attempts at approaching it, then again some very surprising twist by which the approach, or some part of the approach, becomes easy, etc. Also, if the deductions are lengthy or complicated, there should be some simple general principle involved, which "explains" the complications and detours, reduces the apparent arbitrariness to a few simple guiding motivations, etc. These criteria are clearly those of any creative art.... all this is much more akin to the atmosphere of art pure and simple than to that of the empirical sciences.
        (John von Neumann as quoted in William Poundstone, Prisoner's Dilemma).

        Perhaps unsurprisingly, given von Neumann's seminal influence on computer programming, his description of a good mathematical proof reads to me very much like a qualities I expect to see in a good algorithm, function, or class when I'm reading or writing code. Foe me, elegance is always of first importance when I -- and I use the word consciously -- craft code: a function that does not flow, a class the instances of which cannot be used in an elegant and (at least from the user's point of view) transparent way, is almost always bad code, and illuminates a lack of understanding on the part of the coder.

        Kludges are offensive, not because they don't work -- the only justification for a kludge, after all, is that if nothing else, it works -- but because they are indicative of a lack of craft, and because they indicate a lack of understanding, either on the part of the coder himself, or the on the part of framework/clases/language he is coding in or with. A kludge is bad because it is the pulled thread in the fabric of the program, a pulled thread that threatens or exposes a potential for further and MORE disastrous unravelling.

        • Elegance is a kind of beauty, so call it art if you like. I prefer the word craft. Before you take offense at this, I also think that the term craft has been devalued by assuming that the distinction is only one of skill. Artists study technique to improve their craft, but there is fine art with poor craft.

          And there is great craft that isn't art, Paul Revere, or any comparable silversmith would likely been called a craftsman rather than an artist, although he made beautiful unique objects that reside in fi
    • by Anonymous Coward
      IMHO :
      Art is the expression of a feeling. A painter, a poet expresses his feelings thru his artwork, and maybe, sometimes, it reaches the audience, and this audience may (or may not) feel the same.

      Hacking is not art.
      It's "performing a task".
      It's "solving a problem".
      Even if a hack is well-written code, it does not carry any kind of emotion or feeling. Of course, somebody who watches the code may feel a couple of things :
      - surprise : hey it works ! waow !
      - hate : gush ! I wish I could have written that !
      etc.
      • I don't agree with you that art has to involve feelings. It can express intelligence, structure, ideas and so on and doesn't have to involve feelings. Take music as an example. Most music is indeed about feelings, but some music (especially modern music) expresses logic or structure or some other idea not related to feelings.
        • Even modern music involves expression of the composer's feelings. They may not be as accessible to listeners as is the case with older music (due to unfamiliarity with the form), but they are implicit in the work nonetheless. Additionally, an expression of logic or structure does not preclude emotional content.

    • Well, maybe for the few true geniuses out there. But for most hackers it's merely a skill, maybe a craft at most.

      Everything a human can do is an art. High art is merely the pinnacle. We all strive toward it to some extent. An "artist" may simply be one who works for that specific reason.

      • Art vs. Craft (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KludgeGrrl ( 630396 )
        The idea that something is "art" is a pretty recent idea, in the big scheme of things. What distinguishes "art" from a well crafted thing is difficult to define.

        Throughout most of history there were people who mastered crafts. They might be sculptors, painters, cabnetry-makers... And we might look at what they did and say "Hey, that's art! He's a real artist." But what does that mean?

        The programmer who writes a workable kludge is a craftperson, and doesn't aspire to art. Yet if s/he is trying to d
  • Hackers and Painters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amitshah ( 693641 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:18AM (#8428195) Homepage Journal
    Hackers and Painters [paulgraham.com] by Paul Graham [paulgraham.com] is a great read on why artists and hackers have similar interests and mindsets. A must-read for hackers.
    • by Stween ( 322349 )
      I haven't read through all of the piece you link to, but his distaste of the term Computer or Computing Science is slightly worrying, and scars the rest of what seems to be a fairly well written text.

      What he doesn't seem to have grasped is that Computer Science essentially boils down to algorithmics, no matter which distinct field within Computer Science you are in (be it the study of systems & operating systems, real time systems, networks, graphics, or anything else. The only areas I see as fairly di
  • There is only one hacker manifesto:

    Apologies to phrack for the lameness filter edits.

    ==Phrack Inc.==
    Volume One, Issue 7, Phile 3 of 10

    The following was written shortly after my arrest...

    \/\The Conscience of a Hacker/\/
    by
    +++The Mentor+++
    Written on January 8, 1986

    Another one got caught today, it's all over the papers. "Teenager
    Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal", "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering"...
    Damn kids. They're all alike.

    But did you, in your three-piece psychology
    • "This is our world now... " What a load of pretentious claptrap. You want knowledge? Go to a library. Seriously, this kind of self-justifying wine does little to endear me to the authors cause. Things are "free" to you because others are paying for them. You can argue the toss about the current socio-economic system, but at then end of the day, someone else will be footing the bill. Where I live, all the garden walls are 6 foot high brick affairs, one summer, some bored local kids decided to start thr
      • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @09:39AM (#8428633)
        The post reminded me of their excuse, full of self-justification and blaming others for their actions, especially if things go wrong and someone ends up getting hurt. Remember it's not the people at the top, the town planners who designed an estate with little children to do, but the people at the bottom who get hurt.

        I wonder to whom and where this animosity is directed?

        The events of the late 80's and very early 90's were much different than the world today. The barriers to entry were much higher - there weren't many script kiddies. There was NO free unix. Access to real computers was almost nonexistant - as was free access to almost any telecommunications service. A 'C' compiler could run you real money. The internet did not exist as you know it now, except in the hands of few academics. TeleNet, Datapac, and other networks were the only means to access longhaul data communication.

        The exposure of vulerabilities went a long way towards demonstrating that little or no forethought had gone into the security of communications infrastructure. Blue boxing was a driving force to give AT&T a kick in the ass to move to OOB signalling in the late 80's / early 90's.

        It's difficult to justify or look back at now, but a lot of the GOOD that you see in the community today came out of the seeds of that movement. Articles and writing such as the Mentor's capture the emotions and motivations behind the hacker mind moreso than any artifical piece of writing ever will.

        My $0.02.
      • ... self-justifying wine...

        Anyone know where I can buy some of this? "Come on, have another glass--I'm good for your heart! I reduce cholesterol!"

    • by mwood ( 25379 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:49AM (#8429289)
      Yeah, I been there, but with differences.

      I didn't go around breaking others' art; I made some of my own.

      I was bright enough to figure out that, if I do it the way the teacher wants it done, I don't get hassled. I can always do it my way when I'm doing it for me, and then nobody has the authority to tell me I'm doing it wrong.

      I showed some promise and was rewarded with more challenging (and interesting) stuff by teachers who cared. That's how you *find* teachers who care.

      You can learn the system and get what you want. Or you can turn your back on it and let it hit you from behind. Your choice.
  • Art & computers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <infoNO@SPAMdevinmoore.com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:19AM (#8428202) Homepage Journal
    I believe that art (fine art) and computers are integrally related in the methods of abstract creativity requried for the initial creative phase. After that, they deviate in the techniques and level of creativity required. Fine art generally allows for more creativity, because there is not necessarily the business push to "get it done now". As a fine artist whose day job is I.T. related, I can say that it is an easy transition.
  • by fyonn ( 115426 ) <dave@fyonn.net> on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:19AM (#8428208) Homepage
    Mitnick, Escher and Lamo: an Eternally Twisted Pair.

    just the first though that came to me with the description of the book...
    • If I hadn't just posted I'd mod you up.

      Hoffstadter references... what will the world bring next? :)

      Q.

      • I'm reading it right now, which is why it came to mind. been trying to finish the book for well over a decade. I've started afresh for the 6th time or so :) this time I will finish it, I promise! :)

        dave
        • I think it's written as a crab canon. Once you (eventually) get to the end, you turn it over and read it backwards. :)

          Actually my Monty Python book is written that way...

          Q.

  • That godforsaken article reads like a legal document! Surely it wasn't written by any kind of literary hacker. I quit reading after the third paragraph.

    Remember that KISS principle thingamajig.

    - IP
    • by Pike65 ( 454932 )
      Ditto.

      In the time it would have taken me to read that I could have coded a web server, downloaded the X2 demo and solved the Middle Eastern peace problem.

      What ever happened to the art of being concise?
  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:28AM (#8428247) Journal

    ..that 'art' was whatever an 'artist' managed to sell for money to someone with even less insight into what art is than myself...


    I may know little about art in a formal manner, but I know what I like. To me, a piece of art should in some way speak to the beholder on an emotional level. By that definition, hacking is not an artform - at least not in my eyes. YMMV off course, but I would define it rather more as a skill or a knack than as an (artistic) ability.

    • To me, a piece of art should in some way speak to the beholder on an emotional level. By that definition, hacking is not an artform - at least not in my eyes.

      By that definition, hacking is not an artform, but a /. article about hacking is! Judging by the often emotional replies such an article receives... ;-)

      YMMV off course, but I would define it rather more as a skill or a knack than as an (artistic) ability.

      I agree that hacking isn't art, but I do think that it requires something you might call an

  • by leoaugust ( 665240 ) <leoaugust&gmail,com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:34AM (#8428266) Journal

    This expansion of the term "hackers" is a great idea. Now if we could just combine it with the idea of making really "creative hacks" patentable, we might have a solution to the whole mess of US Patents, and democratize the gold rush towards the "patent extortion money" pie.

    "... everyone who creates anything is a hacker -- programmers, artists, musicians, writers, engineers, chemists and so on are all hackers and, no matter how culturally diverse we may be, as creators we have convergent interests,"

    Think about it for a moment. Creativity deserves to be patentable. Once a hack is patented the "hacker" will then try to dissuade others from using it till they pay him for the rights to use it. Thus we have transferred the policing of the hack to the hacker itself! That is advantage number one.

    Advantage number 2 stems from the fact that why let SCO (and other similar scum) try to get away with the patent extortion money. Let all the others who are really creative (hackers) get a share of it too. This way, everyone, programmers, artists, musicians, writers, engineers, chemists, and so on, are now eligible for patents (much better than the measley copyrights) and the patent extortion pie.

    And the bonus advantage of making the "creative hacks" patentable is that it would flood the US Patent Office and wash away its patenting sins, and maybe force it to stop giving out dumb patents.

    .

  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:34AM (#8428270) Homepage Journal
    Plan9 [bell-labs.com]; the most beautiful code in the most beautiful OS [bell-labs.com] with the prettiest mascot. [bell-labs.com]

  • by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) <be@ec[ ].tk ['lec' in gap]> on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:42AM (#8428304) Homepage Journal
    Look at the projects we can view the source for ...

    Linux, Gnome, KDE, OpenOffice, Mozilla, and ummm lets choose, VI.

    These code bases are beautiful works which entail blood, sweat, passion, and thought. There are pieces of Art that I think shouldn't qualify as its not an expression of the creator, yet just a piece of art for arts sake.

    Just as not all code is something that is enjoyable for many reasons but some being that the end result sucks or the code is so piss poor the end result sucks.

    Is Linus a genuis, nope, is he quite possibly the most creative man in OSS programming, sure. I don't think Linus is a superhuman by any means, but I do know he posses the talent to see something and then make it happen. Just as you can have an artist look at a canvas and then paint the mona lisa on it. Its the coders that can see a picture of what they want the end product to look like and make it happen, is the same as an artist looking towards a canvas and seeing the finished product before anyone else can.

    So yes, hacking is an art form, but like any art, not just anyone can do it.

  • But why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:50AM (#8428337) Homepage
    Why do all these programmers want to be considered artists anyway?

    An artist is someone who ignores function and concentrates on form where they think beauty lies. An engineer is someone who sees beauty in pure dedication to achieving a function in the most efficient fashion.

    A perfectly calculated arching cantilever is beautiful, a painting of a waterfall is just an inferior copy.

    -- An Engineer
    • Re:But why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @09:06AM (#8428431) Journal
      Why do all these programmers want to be considered artists anyway?
      Because programmers are just like normal human beings, in the sense that most of them have that subconscious yearning for the approval and respect of their fellow man.

      Now look at the amount of respect society at large bestows on artists and programmers / engineers. Artists are generally well-regarded... even the people who think that most artists are lazy and weird, can muster some respect for them. Contrast that with the amount of appreciation programmers garner these days. Most non-techs have little respect for programmers, or geeky activities in general.

      A perfectly calculated arching cantilever is beautiful, a painting of a waterfall is just an inferior copy.
      Yet very few 'regular' people will notice the beauty in beautiful bridges... but will fork over good money for that painting of a waterfall. Unsurprisingly... to appreciate the beauty of most engineering works, you have to have at least some working knowledge of the underlying principles. But if you know nothing about painting, proportion, shading and composition, you are still able to be moved emotionally by a piece of art. And that is what art is about.
      • because you sure don't sound like one.

        engineers get paid. all the great inventors and scientists do get the culture and notice.

        einstein? hawking? edison? linus? wozniac?

        for every michelango, there is a newton.

        if you were an artist you'd know we don't get paid shit for any of the work we care about. most of it goes un-noticed until after we die, and that's only if we were truly ahead of our time and actually a master.

        there is no recognition. only authors and musicians and film-makers ever get the
        • if you were an artist you'd know we don't get paid shit for any of the work we care about. most of it goes un-noticed until after we die, and that's only if we were truly ahead of our time and actually a master.

          ...
          at least engineers can pay the bills. that's ultimately what it comes down to...
          Respect and regard for your profession in general is not the same as public recognition for your work in particular. Nor does it directly translate to a fat paycheck.
    • If you say Artists ignore function, pop-art (and boatloads of later art) has apparently escaped your radar.

      "/Dread"
    • Re:But why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <twistedgreenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @09:38AM (#8428623)
      That's certainly an interesting observation... but could non-functional art (such as a painting or sculpture) also be considered beautiful based on these parameters, on a more physical level? Does the efficiency of the construction of even a nonfunctional piece of work contribute to its beauty?

      I see that you are suggesting a duplicity in the definition of beauty, yet it is apparent that they are tied together on a fundamental level. One definition is of a mathematical beauty, which values efficiency as an aesthetic. The other capitalizes on organic beauty, the result of human perception and evolved cognitive processes. However, these perceptions are the result of natural forces of evolution which itself values efficiency. Therefore, what is mathematically efficient is also humanly aesthetic: form and function are intimately related. This suggests that there does exist a universal, unified beauty which is present in design, be it functional or not.

      This is why programmers can also be artists.

    • An artist is someone who ignores function and concentrates on form where they think beauty lies.

      Those are the crappy artists, the ones who think art is about "beauty". Unfortunately they're the majority. (And most of them can't even produce what they're trying to produce). The good artists try to communicate what can't be communicated through words. That's much harder than producing everyday beauty.

      I will agree with you that artists tend concentrate too much of form, and function is some sort of bas
    • Re:But why? (Score:2, Insightful)

      Well, I dunno about you, but I consider myself both. And I've got the paper to prove it!

      I have a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, bestowed upon me by the University of California at Santa Cruz.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Streaming video of NEW YORK CITY HACKERS plus extras available at http://uit.no/breifilm/4276/1 (norwegian). Direct movie link: http://uit.no/breifilm/4276/3
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hacking an Art? Hardly. Don't try to further glorify this nonsense, little hacker groupies.

    And if anyone is considering reading the article with the lame 'manifesto', just read this one paragraph with its rambling, babbling nonsense...

    "Production produces all things, and all producers of things. Production produces not only the object of the production process, but also the producer as subject. Hacking is the production of production. The hack produces a production of a new kind, which has as its result
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sorry, you're wrong. Code is art. We're talking about design, not mechanics. Questions like: functional, procedural, or object-oriented design paradigm? Plug-ins or scripting for extension? How will networking and persistence be handled? How will the software test itself? Which design patterns should be applied in what combination?

    The choices require experience and creativity, and it is truly art and beauty at the design level. If you can't see it as art, then sorry, you lack the design experience to under
  • Define art first... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cherokee158 ( 701472 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:41AM (#8429202)
    I think there are as many definitions of what constitutes "art" as there are aspiring artists (or their parasitical campfollowers, art critics).

    I'm a traditionally trained commercial artist. (You are welcome to slashdot my site at spanishcastle.com to confirm that pronouncement). I also have done a limited amount of programming. I find them to be two distinctly different experiences, but not altogether different. I think any act of creation done in the pursuit of excellence can be considered art.

    However, I tend to prefer my own simple formula for answering the age old question: is it art? They are:

    1) Is it beautiful? (which is a loaded question, too, really)
    2) Would you have it in your home? (or, in the case of large works, in your town?)
    3) Five hundred years from now, when some future archeologist digs it up, will it still be recognizable as art?

    Obviously, some art forms are simply too ephemeral (like music or dance) to meet these conditions completely...although you could also argue that the best of them are preserved in one fashion or another (symphonies are committed to paper, and dances are taught to the next generation)

    I think programming might be considered more akin to graphic art than fine art.

    Fine art is a form of expression. I am not sure how well programming does this. Were it not for commented code, I don't how one could discern the author of a great piece of code from another.

    Graphic art is a form of communication, which programming is designed to do, after a fashion. It is a means whereby a person may communicate with a machine.

    Perhaps only machines know the difference? Perhaps we are bearing witness to a new form of art: machine art. Maybe one day, sentient machines will look and marvel at the elegance and simplicity of some tidy bit of code with the same fascination and admiration we might admire an artist's rendering of our own universe today.

    I'm still waiting for both hardware and software manufacturers to address the issue of permanence, though...
    • Fine art is a form of expression. I am not sure how well programming does this. Were it not for commented code, I don't how one could discern the author of a great piece of code from another.

      I think you probably could, if you spent as much time analyzing others' code as some people do studying art. I can most definitely recognize certain *ugly* tendencies in code as belonging to particular individuals!
    • Is it useless? Was it intended to be useless? Probably art.
    • The thing about programming is that you have to have the appropriate level of fluency (in relation to what you are looking at) to appreciate the elegance of a particular design. So amongst programmers, it is an art, but there is no way for the general public to appreciate programming as art.
      • That's an interesting postition. The fine art world often defends their art on the same grounds. Tome Wolfe has a rather scathing but fascintating book on the subject called "The Painted Word", which I recommend to art lovers.

        I suppose all art rather depends on context...
  • Programming [silent.se] is essentially a creative [mit.edu] endeavor where beauty emerges from the harmonious [catsspeed.co.jp] implementation of function - i.e. a function (creation) in harmony with the object (material or imagined) which is the program's intention to model [nist.gov] and with a given set of factors or rules (the API, language [ecma-international.org], instruction set.) This kind of creativity is in this sense more akin [berkeley.edu] to that expressed in building architecture [atomix.com] and industrial design than that expressed in the fine arts and philosophy [dpklinik.de].

    Terming programming as a fine art is quite a stretch apart from the latter's primary concern - which is the creation of beautiful objects. Programming's primary concern is the creation of interactive models of objects in harmony with their material or imaginary counterparts and the boundaries that define the model space.

    In this other sense, the aesthetic pleasure derived from programming or observing beautiful code is similar in nature to that derived from the construction or contemplation of philosophical concepts - both can recur to visual metaphors but are in essence invisible.

  • creative? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kyw ( 752653 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:07AM (#8429519) Journal

    Art work is there to create an atmosphere, to procure an emotion, so it has a function.

    Its not because the function is psychological that it is inexistent. The summit is to be able to associate beautiful with practical form, and that's what design is all about.

    I have seen beautiful designs by hackers, so to me many have artistic concepts, and are inspired.

    Hacking a way of slicing reality for mathematical minds?
    A good cook is creative in his art so is a doctor undertaking a chirurgic operation, so is, so is so is.....

    All professions have their amount of creativity, and some are more creative then others, no matter the occupation.

    In all cases, the inventor has to master the rules who define the medium he applies, thus to use the maximum possibilities, for the creation to be well balanced, i.e. ingredients in the case of a dish, colours for a painting, sounds for music, etc...

  • Redefining hackers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arsinmsn ( 602830 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:11AM (#8429559)
    I really can't wholeheartedly suggest that anyone RTFM[anifesto]--it is pretty tough going. (Incredibly, it is apparently shorter than previous versions. Groan.)

    The manifesto attempts to redefine "hacker" as pretty much anyone who reworks intellectual material. At this stage of the world, this includes a substantial swath of humanity. Politically, this places a bunch of knowledge workers alongside each other in the trenches, all working to reap the benefits of their insights rather than being victimized by the amusingly named & nefarious "vectorists," who aspire to possess not only all means of communication (vectors) but stocks of information (archives) and flows of information (?just-in-time news coverage?) as well.

    Under the banner that information should be free, the manifesto envisages a fairly nebulous post-factional regime that sounds a lot like contemporary anarchism.

    To worry about whether or not you like the idea that hackers are artists is to get it exaclty backwards, the point of this is to convince all other knowledge workers that they are hackers. I think that the manifesto author presumes that other knowledge workers should be being flattered by being considered hackers, and that they will be so tickled that they will embrace the notions of the manifesto.

    This is not to say that there is not some food for thought here; though sometimes obscurely worded, it really does have some interesting takes on the economy of invention. My caution to readers of the comments, is that whether or not you support this broadening of the term hacker, be careful that you don't accidentally side with a political agenda simply on the basis of that definition.
  • A line from the hacker manifesto referenced in the post, would serve as a valuable business lesson to many:

    "To produce is to repeat; to hack, to differentiate."

  • Hmm first time poster long time listener. Sorry had to say that as this is my first post. Art to me is about the process of creating but so yes any form of creation is an artistic expression but at the same time the purpose of art is to convey an emotion or feeling. So I have to ask how does programming touch people? Yes it changes life and makes things easier for people and it enriches them but does it really make them aware of what they have been unaware of or in other words does it leave them with a f
  • The Editor of Linux User & Developer [linuxuser.co.uk]
    Richard Hillesley wrote a great article in issue 36 titled
    "The Poetry of Programming".

    In it he detailed the connection between E De joncourt,
    Charles Babbage, Ada Augusta and Lord Byron.

    Truely enlightening.

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