While code studies is just burgeoning as a field, poets, digital artists, and hacker/hobbyists have long used the textual and performative qualities of code together as a means of expression. Here are some thoughts on code art and esolangs. For further discussion on what makes something a computer or a programming language, I wrote this piece.

0. Computers are logical systems that arise as often by accident as by design.

1. Their core materiality is logic, not pixels or circuits or bits or other features of their physical implementation. Other implementations are possible.

2. Our engagement with logic is irrational because we are irrational beings. We are incapable of fully asserting our agency through a system that forces us to translate our intentions into logical steps.

3. This central drama of human / computer interaction is experienced most directly at the code level.

4. Bugs are the primary progeny of programmers. We write broken software.

5. Although the machine presents a world of our own making, it rebukes us by not doing what we want, leading to a compulsive cycle of “fixing” and augmenting code (as says Joseph Weizenbaum). We are all “computer bums”.

6. For any definition of the term “programming language,” there is a language that sits on its border.

7. Programmability is not a requirement for programming languages. Theoretical programming languages existed before practical ones. We can create valid languages whose programs are physically unconstructable or whose executors are logically impossible.

8. The ambiguity of human language is present in code, which never fully escapes its status as human writing, even when machine-generated. We bring to code our excesses of language, and an ambiguity of semantics, as discerned by the human reader.

9. We don’t need an irrational idea to follow logically; our irrationality will pollute any attempt at rigor.

A. Banal ideas can be rescued by carrying them out with precision, or even through increased repetition, as it is hard for us to understand even relatively immediate repercussions of our actions in the logical space, bringing us again and again to unexpected places.