Re: regarding innovation

Subject: Re: regarding innovation
From: Ross Bencina (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2005 - 10:28:43 EST

Of David's psychological perspective on innovation (thanks David!), Michael
Gogins wrote:

> I think this kind of understanding of these issues is interesting up to a
> point, but most of the really interesting issues are well beyond that
> point. Kind of like the relationship of the eye muscles to written
> literature. If they didn't work, we wouldn't have it, but they don't have
> much to say about it.

Right now I'm not directly concerned with the literature (music) itself but
rather with the process of making it. I'm specifically interested in the
notion of "programming as a medium", by which I am referring to a practice
which engages with the methods and abstractions of computer science and
software engineering as a creative process with creative outcomes. In the
limit I see this as quite different from engineering per se because it's not
simply a process of envisioning a creative outcome and engineering a
solution as if following a functional specification, but rather a process of
creative dialog with a medium (programming) where some (not all) of the
materials are data structres and algorithms. You can consider these
materials just as Miriam sees her tools in the world of built software:

> then there's the sort of tools i work with - brush and paint. AudioSculpt,
> ProTools - where i have a blank canvas that i can throw my sounds onto
> into a visual pattern (literally) and play with my brushes and palette
> (effects).

That said, I think it is clear that even in a creative practice, some
software development is more-or-less traditional engineering -- you need a
tool that does a specific thing, and you create it -- functional requirement
leads to functional outcome. I hypothesise that programming as a creative
practice is not just engineering, and that to think of it as such is
limiting, primarily because one runs the risk of seeing everything as an
engineering problem with functional requirements -- a view which may not be
conducive to creativity (certainly in my experience I don't find it
conducive), not to mention the other biases it's possible to pick up from
computer science and engineering thought.

The above lead me to think about what might motivate the aspect of
practicing "programming as a medium" which isn't just about solving
functional requirements. One thing that came to mind was the tendency
towards innovation, and how I could ground this tendency in a broader
context which considers other people's creative practice, and practices
which don't involve software.


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