Greetings. Welcome to the first class of Poetics and Politics of Computation at the School for Poetic Computation(SFPC). I’d like to begin the class by asking “What is poetic computation?” First, there is the poetics of code, which refers to code as a form of poetry. There is something poetic about code itself, the way that syntax works, the way that repetitions work, and the way that instruction becomes execution through abstraction. There is also what I call the poetic effect of code, which is an aesthetic experience realized through code. In other words, when the mechanics of words are in the right place, the language transcends its constraints and rules, and in turn, creates this poetic effect whereby thought is transformed into experience.
Together, the poetics of code and the poetic effect of code form ‘poetic computation.’ The terms code and computation are often used interchangeably, but I should note that code is only one aspect of computation. Code is a series of instruction for computation that requires logical systems and hardware to make the instructions computable. In that sense, computation is a higher level concept than code. For our purposes, however, we can use poetics of code and poetics of computation interchangeably throughout these discussions.
To a non-coder, non-artist friend, or to those just beginning to learn to program, I often say code may look like poetry in an alien language. And to those more experienced with code, writing code sometimes feels like writing poetry because it doesn’t always ‘work.’ I mean two things by ‘work’: first, does it work as an art form? Is it good poetry? On the other hand, I mean ‘work’ in a more utilitarian sense. Does it have practical application?