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The role of aesthetics in understanding source code

Pierre Depaz

under the direction of
Alexandre Gefen (Paris-3)
and Nick Montfort (MIT)
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle


This thesis investigates how the aesthetic properties of source code enable the representation of programmed semantic spaces, in relation with the function and understanding of computer processes. By examining program texts and the discourses around it, we highlight how source code aesthetics are both dependent on the context in which they are written, and contingent to other literary, architectural, and mathematical aesthetics, varying along different scales of reading. Particularly, we show how the aesthetic properties of source code manifest expressive power due to their existence as a dynamic, functional, and shared computational interface to the world, through formal organizations which facilitate semantic compression and spatial exploration.

Table of contents

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  1. Bibliography
  2. Figures and Listings
  3. Companion notes for the thesis
  4. Thesis source code repository
  5. Website and parser source code repository