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Ivan Reese 2024-06-24 00:44:20

I'm becoming interested in the idea of "programming tools as art", and as a consequence I'm interested in programming tools criticism.

I'd like to read/watch/hear critical reviews of programming tools that approach them not as bundles of features and capabilities, but as authored works that reflect a creative intent and as cultural touchstones and as environments or artifacts within which one can have deeply personal experiences.

A. Do you share my interest?

B. Do you know any such critics?

Ivan Reese 2024-06-24 05:10:15

I wonder what the Kotaku of programming tools would look like. Reviews of new releases. Feature articles with broad criticism of emerging movements. Hell, year end best-of lists.

What's the of programming? Is that an absurd question? Well, what sort of crowdsourced metrics would we find helpful when selecting a new language to enjoy. We could certainly do better than GitHub stars and download counts.

Alex McLean 2024-06-24 14:46:04

Critical code studies might be adjacent?

Alex McLean 2024-06-24 14:48:42

and Daniel Temkin's take on esoteric programming languages

Alex McLean 2024-06-24 14:51:01

there is a programming languages section on the runme website that was active in the early 00's

Jimmy Miller 2024-06-25 21:34:26

I’ve got (excerpts from) an art history book we could read on the topic. This is something I’m super interested in as well. I think there is actually quite a lot we should learn from art history/criticism if we are going to accomplish it

Alex McLean 2024-06-26 14:17:15

I'm a bit unsure what's meant by art criticism here. Is it something like music or restaurant reviews, or something more 'art world'? I'm also unsure about the switching between the term 'tools' and 'environments' which seem different kinds of things

Ivan Reese 2024-06-26 14:27:14

Yes, music/movie/game reviews — the sort where someone describes their subjective experience of a work as a way of assessing it on behalf of the audience. I enjoy reading reviews, especially multiple reviews for the same work that disagree wildly, especially reviews that zoom in to critique tiny details and decisions and zoom out to situate the work within a movement or cultural moment.

I usually think of programming tools as being environments because I don't separate the experience of the language from the editor. My experience comes from the interplay of both. Writing TS in VSCode is a different experience from writing TS in Nova or HTML in VSCode. (Edit: on second thought, I don't think this pertains to my meaning in the original post. Will have to come back to that later.)

Does that help? I'm fumbling around in the dark a bit, so apologies if this is coming across more obtuse than it ought to. I think the idea is pretty small.

Jimmy Miller 2024-06-26 14:39:53

I’d say that art criticism goes a bit beyond reviews. A large amount of it is about understanding the work. Putting it in context, asking what its goals are, understanding why it approached things the way it did.

It is a process of understanding as much as it is appraising.

Ivan Reese 2024-06-26 14:44:45

Yeah, though I feel like we already have some of that. More would be nice. But I don't think I've ever read a magazine-style honest to goodness ~review~ of a PL, and I'm wondering why.

Like, does Haskell get a 5/10 or a 3/10, and why? (From a given reviewer)

Anyone who feels like this is absurd: yes! Lean into that.

Jimmy Miller 2024-06-26 14:51:57

I can see why you’d say we have explanations. But they aren’t the kind I’m looking for.

We have all sorts of reviews like that. They are just called “why we are leaving x” or “why we chose y”.


Ivan Reese 2024-06-26 23:17:32

That's a good point of comparison. Not quite the right thing, but certainly in the ballpark. It's missing the "this is a review of X" framing / artifice.

Jimmy Miller 2024-06-26 23:17:59

I’ll make some for you :)

Ivan Reese 2024-06-26 23:18:53

For the "Programming Unenthusiast" magazine I'm totally not starting? (PRUNE)

Alex McLean 2024-06-27 07:59:44

Yes makes sense! So you agree it is helpful to think of both languages and editors as environments, or together forming an environment, rather than tools?

Personal Dynamic Media 2024-06-28 06:45:02

Ivan Reese many Logo books expounded at length on the Logo philosophy of education and the ways that the design of the Logo programming language reflected and supported that philosophy.

Mindstorms by Seymour Papert and Apple Logo by Harold Abelson are good examples of this.

Abelson wrote the book decades before he sold his soul to whitewash MITs culpability in the death of Aaron Swartz, and it is a very good book, so when I read it I try to believe that the author was a good man when he was writing it.

Alex McLean 2024-06-28 19:16:23

Maybe thinking about this as auto-ethnography is useful Ivan Reese? e.g.

Lu Wilson 2024-06-29 08:39:40

shared this on masto but will share here too. Shane's post about his experience of using arroost was really special to me -

Alex McLean 2024-06-29 08:24:53

Who'd be interested in an event with talks and some performances around making notations and programming languages for pattern-making (textile, musical, choreographic etc)? Half focussed online, half focussed in-person, all streamed. Mix of open call and invited talks. All free/open access. Probably in January. Maybe called "Programming Of The Art Computer".

Joshua Horowitz 2024-06-30 07:14:29

You might wanna ask Hannah Twigg Smith; she's been doing some interface work around knitting patterns.

Alex McLean 2024-06-30 08:04:59

Thanks a lot Joshua Horowitz, great tip! I hadn't found her work before

GuzhIRegem 2024-06-30 19:19:11

Hey, someone knows about any research into RAG-Based training of models?