Coding: The Purest Form of Art

07 November 2019 - Caidan Williams

“Coding is the purest form of art.” said my best friend Dylan Katz. Although this is a subjective statement, it has stayed with me over the years. I agree with this statement, and I have found a few reasons why this holds true for me. Coding is a practice in which a person handcrafts words and logic statements to give extremely specific commands to a computer. And when working within a digital space there are very few limitations that a developer will ever encounter. This allows a developer to create almost anything whether it be an autonomous artificial intelligence, a real-world robot that is able to defuse bombs, or a completely digital world in which a person can explore. The art of coding is beautiful, boundless, and useful.

Coding is like writing a persuasive essay. You are trying to get your audience to achieve a goal after reading the information in your essay, and with coding, your audience is a computer. This task is tricky, sometimes your audience doesn’t agree with your arguments or maybe they don’t understand what you are trying to explain. The same goes for a computer, they may not have the proper set of libraries (pre-written pieces of code) to understand the action that you want it to accomplish, or they may not even understand the programming language you have written in. So you go back and modify your essay with little tweaks that clarify the purpose of your essay in an attempt to better persuade your audience’s perspective. This holds true when writing for a computer as well: you write your first draft of code, let the computer read it, analyze the computer’s actions, and modify your code so the computer can achieve its goal using better methods. The biggest difference between writing an essay versus code is convincing a computer to accomplish a task instead of a human. A computer will follow your commands exactly as it’s written, and isn’t always able to interpret its own meaning or create new solutions.

Coding is the purest form of art because the only limitations placed on a developer are computational power, time, and imagination. Modern computers are extremely powerful, for example, a group of Japanese researches has recently calculated the digits of pi to ~1.25 trillion places. This is an incredible ongoing feat that has been repeatedly attempted since the invention of computers, though we need to keep in mind that there is a limitation, it’s constantly being redefined. Another prevalent and hard to manage limitation with coding is time. Determining how much value you will actually get out of a piece of code versus the amount of time it will require to write is an extremely difficult task to accomplish. You can theoretically build a world similar to that seen in the movie “The Matrix”, but no one person could complete it in their lifetime. The last limitation is imagination, with so many possibilities and different areas of coding to explore (game development, data analysis, artificial intelligence, etc.), it is hard for a developer to pick a project to work on. I have personally struggled with coming up with ideas for a new video game, finding a niche problem that code can fix, or even my potential career path and how I want to spend my time. Although these are big limitations, they are by far easier to manage than any other form of art, for example, sculptors are limited to matter, musicians are limited to sound, and choreographers are limited to physical motion.

My last argument lies within the ability code has to create almost any form of art. You can create a video game with cute cartoon graphics, simple satisfying sounds, and fun gameplay. Or on the opposite end, a very disturbing atmosphere with jump scares, genuinely horrifying enemies, and violent blood-filled scenes. For example, the games “Slime Rancher” and “Dead Space” highly contrast each other. Slime Rancher has cell-shaded (think comic book) 3D graphics, friendly sound effects, and relaxing music all brought together with gameplay about collecting and combining different slimes to create new breeds. Whereas, Dead Space follows a systems engineer “Isaac Clarke” who is on a rescue team tasked with saving the crew of a mining ship fully loaded with undead mutilated creatures. Both of these games use code and share a similar purpose, to entertain the audience, with either casual fun or anxiety-fueled fear.

To extend upon my last argument, let us step out into the real world where code plays a big role in today’s society. Coding is the best way to allow individual physical components to act as a group through an artificial brain that composes the actions of each component. Some examples of this are seen in robots on factory lines and bomb deactivation teams. Factory lines in today’s world are almost fully automated and driven by code they can stamp, cut, color, fill, etc. a product that will be shipped and sold to consumers. The robotic arms and machines on these lines are all driven by software, allowing them to work without exhaustion or any human supervision. On the other hand, we have bomb-defusing robots. These robots don’t have artificial intelligence in the same way a robot on an assembly line does, but rather they have code that allows a human to control the robot, see it’s actions on a screen and use tools to defuse a bomb all while sitting in a safe location. I hope I have made it easier for you to see the endless creative possibilities coding can help achieve, both in the digital and physical realm.

In conclusion, coding is, in my opinion, one of the purest forms of art. It allows us to create digital worlds for other people’s entertainment, solve real-world problems, and express ourselves in a way that was previously not possible. I have gained my fair share of enjoyment coding on many projects and developing a few small games. There are many more ways of creating art with programming that I did not cover such as making digital music, 2D/3D art, randomly generated worlds, computer viruses, etc. There are too many sub-topics of coding to cover in a single essay, but I hope I have enlightened your perspective on coding and shown you the potential applications. There is a world that we have yet to uncover, and I am extremely excited to take part in this vast ever-evolving community. I don’t see myself ever completely give up coding, even after having already dedicated many hours throughout my life and career to the art. And I hope that I have properly shown and inspired you to investigate this wonderful art on your own.