Subject: Re: software as art
From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 11:01:17 -0400

> There's also beauty and art in the act of human procreation. If any
> of you think the *product* of that act, and hence the reasons billions
> of creatures engage in it every day...

Hmm.  Most of the critters I know don't seem to evaluate much of
anything on artistic merit, including procreation.  Given the level of
casual intercourse among humans, I'ld bet that the yield more often
qualifies as a concern, not an objective.

Back to software as art:

Part of the problem, I think, is that the definition of "art" is
slippery. Some of software's art is about presentation, and some about
usability.  The presentation is something that users can appreciate
visually and really do buy on.  I agree with Burley that it's most
obvious in games, but it certainly appears elsewhere.

Usability is more problematic, because sometimes the measure of
success is that the user didn't notice it.  Really usable software is
not perceived as getting between the user and their creative intent.
I would suggest that this is also art, though perhaps in a different
sense.  More on the lines of art in the industrial design sense,

I'm not convinced that the proportion of drudge to art is any
different in software than in, say, painting.  Think about how many
damn dots go on a pointiliste painting (millions), or how many layers
of pigment go on some other paintings (often seven layers).  Think
about all the work in doing the preliminary sketches, doing the
distracting quickies that paid the rent, etc. etc.  The time to
produce a really fine painting (often 12-18 months or longer) is the
same order of magnitude as the time to produce a good software system.

If this is so, then why should the "artistic protection" argument be
any different between the two?