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The research territory: code

Most of our modern infrastructure depends, to a more or less dramatic extent, on software systems ( Kitchin, 2011) , from commercial spaces to classrooms, transport systems to cultural institutions, scientific production and entertainment products. Software regulates and automates the storage, communication and creation of information which support each of these domains of human activities. These complex processes are described in source code, a vast and mostly invisible set of texts. The number of lines of code involved in supporting human activity is hard to estimate; one can only rely on disclosures from companies, and publicly available repositories. To give an order of magnitude, all of Google's services amounted to over two billions source lines of code (SLOC) ( @Scale, 2015) , while the 2005 release of the OSX operating system comprised 86 millions lines of code, and while the version 1.0 of the Linux kernel (an operating system which powers most of the internet and specialized computation) totalled over 175,000 SLOC, version 4.1 jumped to over 19.5 million lines of code in the span of twenty years ( Wikipedia, 2021) .
Given such a large quantity of textual mass, one might wonder: who reads this code? To answer this question, we must start looking more closely at what source code really is.
Source code consists in a series of instructions, composed in a particular programming language, which is then processed by a computer in order to be executed, often resulting in mechanical action (e.g. a change in movement, display or sound). For instance, using the language called Python, the source code in    consists in telling the computer to store two numbers in what are called variables (here, a  and b  ), then proceeds with describing the procedure for adding the double of the first terms to the second term (here, compute  ), and concludes in actually executing the above procedure.

    a = 4
    b = 6

    def compute(first, second):
        return (first * 2) + second
    compute(a, b)

- Example of the basic elements of a computer program, written in Python
Given this particular piece of source code, the computer will output the number 14  as the result of the operation (4 * 2) + 6  . In this sense, then, source code is the requirement for software to exist: since computers are procedural machines, acting upon themselves and upon the world, they need a specification of what to do, and source code provides such a specification. In this sense, computers are the main "readership" of source code.
However, it is also a by-product of software, since it is no longer required once the computer has processed and stored it into a binary representation, a series of 0  s and 1  s which symbolize the successive states that the computer has to go through in order to perform the action that was described in the source code. Executable code is what most of the individuals who interact with computers deal with, in the form of packaged applications, such as a media player or a web browser. They (almost) never have to inquire about the existence or appearance of such source code. In this sense, then, source code only matters until it gets processed by a computer, through which it realizes its intended function.
From another perspective, source code isn't just about telling computers what to do, but also a key component of a particular economy: that of software development. Programmers are the ones who write the source code and this process is first and foremost a collaborative endeavour. They write code in successive steps, because they add features over time, or they fix errors that have shown up in their software, or they decide to rewrite parts of the source code based on new ideas, requirements, skills or preferences. In this case, source code is not used to communicate to the computer what it does, but to other software developers what the intent of the software is. Source code is then the locus of human, collaborative work; it represents iterations of ideas, formalization of processes and approaches to problem-solving. As Harold Abelson puts it,
Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute. ( Abelson, 1979) .
Official definitions of source code straddle this line between the first role of source code (as instructions to a computer) and the second role of source code (as indications to a programmer). For instance, a definition within the context of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) considers source code any fully executable description of a software system, which therefore includes various representations of this description, from machine code to high-level languages and graphical representations using visual programming languages  ( Harman, 2010) . This definition focuses on the ability of code to be processed by a machine, and mentions little about its readability (i.e. processability by other humans).
On the other hand, the definition of source code provided by the Linux Information Project focuses on source code as the version of software as it is originally written (i.e. typed into a computer), by a human in plain text (i.e. human-readable, alphanumeric characters).  ( Linux Information Project, 2006) . The emphasis here is on source code as the support of human activity, as software developers need to understand the pieces of code that they are creating, or modifying. Source code thus has two kinds of readabilities: a computer one, which is geared towards the correct execution of the program, and a human one, which is geared towards the correct understanding of the program. In the lineage of this human-readability, we can point to the Free Software Foundation's equation of the free circulation and publication of source code with the free circulation of publication of ideas. Particularly, Freedom 1 ( The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs ) and Freedom 3 ( The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. ) as stated in the FSF's definition of Free Software stipulates that access to source code is required to support these freedoms, a version of source code that is not concealed , i.e. readable by both human and machine ( Stallman, 2002) .
Source code, in addition to this ability to communicate ideas, is also an always potentially collaborative object, and can thus be the locus of multiple subjectivities coming together. As Krysa and Sedek state in their definition, source code is where change and influence can happen , and where intentionality and style are expressed  ( UNKNOWN AUTHOR, 2008) . In their understanding, source code shares some features with natural languages as an intersubjective process ( Voloshinov, 1986) , and as such is different from the binary representation of a program, an object which we do not consider fitting to the frame of our study due to its unilaterality—among computers and humans, only humans can effectively read it. The intelligibility of source code, they continue, facilitates its circulation and duplication among programmers. It is this aspect of a socio-technical object that we consider as important as its procedural effectiveness.
In this research, we build on these definitions to propose the following:
Source code is defined as one or more text files which are written by a human or by a machine in such a way that they elicit a meaningful and succesfully actionable response from both a computer and a human, and describe a software system. These text files are the starting point to producing an execution of the system described, whether they are the very first starting point, or an intermediate representation used for subsequent compilations. These files are collectively called program texts .
This definition takes into account a broad view of source code, including steps such as intermediate representations (transitory representations from one version of the source to another one), but also obfuscations (deliberately complicating the code to prevent human-readability while maintaining machine-readability) and minifications (reducing the amount of characters used in source code to its minimum). This will allow us to compare human-authorship of source code, machine-authorship, and hybrid modes, in which a human writes unreadable code with the help of tools. One aspect that is being more narrowly defined for the purpose of this study is the actual manifestation of code: while multiple media for source code exist, we exclude here all of those that are not written in the UTF-8 character set—i.e. textual representations. Since one of the questions of this study is to examine the literariness of source code aesthetics, other forms of source code, such as visual programming languages or biological computation, stand outside the scope of this study and should be investigated in subsequent work. Similarly, the recent development of large language models in deep learning have ushered a new kind of source: a well-formed statistical representation of source code, aggregated from various sources into an answer to a specific problems. While these do pose interesting questions in terms of creativity, intentionality and style, we nonetheless also reserve this kind of source code to a subsequent study.
As for the term program text , it is chosen in order to highlight the dual nature of source code: that of a computational artefact to be formally processed and unambiguously understood ( Detienne, 2001) , and that of a open-ended, multi-layered document, in the vein of Barthes' distinction between a text and a work ( Barthes, 1984) . We will refer to the general medium of a textual interface to computation as source code , and to the coherent, practical instance of software manifested through source code as program texts .

Beautiful code

From this definition of source code textually represented, we now turn to the existence of the aesthetics of such program texts. To contextualize this existence, we first need to touch upon the history and practice of software development. As an economic activity, software development came from a bottom-up dynamic, a de facto activity which was not expected in the early days of computing, where most of the work was divided between mathematics and engineering. Its earliest manifestation can be found in the physical rewiring process of mainframes in order to perform a specific computation, something more akin to firmware than to software. These rewiring tasks were done by mostly female assistants, under the direction of mostly male mathematicians ( Chun, 2005) , and consisted in translation tasks from thought to machine, and which required more mechanical than notational skill. The recognition of software engineering as its own field came as its unique domain of expertise was required in larger engineering projects—for instance, the term software engineering was coined in the late 1960s by Margaret Hamilton and her team as they were working on the Apollo 11 Lunar Module software ( Mindell, 2011) . In the same decade, the first volume of The Art of Computer Programming , by Donald Knuth, addresses directly both the existence of programming as an activity separate from mathematics and engineering, as well as an activity with an "artistic" dimension.
The process of preparing programs for a digital computer is especially attractive, not only because it can be economically and scientifically rewarding, but also because it can be an aesthetic experience much like composing poetry or music. This book is the first volume of a multi-volume set of books that has been designed to train the reader in the various skills that go into a programmer's craft. ( Knuth, 1997)
Considered one of the most canonical textbooks in the field, The Art of Computer Programming highlights two important aspects of programming for our purpose: that it can be an aesthetic experience and that it is the result of a craft, rather than of a highly-formalized systematic process, as we will see in  Crafting software   .
Craftsmanship is an essentially fleeting phenomenon, a practice rather than a theory, in the vein of Michel De Certeau's tactics, bottom-up actions informally designed and implemented by the users of a situation, product or technology as opposed to strategies ( Certeau, 1990) , in which ways of doing are deliberately prescribed in a top-down fashion. Craft is hard to formalize, and the development of expertise in the field happens more often through practice than through formal education ( Sennett, 2009) . It is also one in which function and beauty exist in an intricate, embodied and implicit relationship, based on subjective qualitative standards and functional purposes rather than strictly quantitative measurements ( Pye, 2008) . Approaching programming as a craft has been a recurrent perspective ( Lévy, 1992 Dijkstra, 1982) , and connects to the multiple testimonies of encountering beautiful code, some of which have made their ways into edited volumes or monographs ( UNKNOWN AUTHOR, 2007 Chandra, 2014 Gabriel, 1998) .
Additionally, informal exchanges among programmers on forums, mailing lists, blog posts and code repositories often mention beautiful code, either as a central discussion point or simply in passing. These testimonies constitute the first part of our corpus, as sources in which programmers comment on the aesthetic dimension of their practice. The second part of the corpus is composed of selected program texts, which we will examine in order to identify and formalize which aspects of the textual manifestation of software can elicit an aesthetic experience.
So the existence of something akin to art, something beautiful and pleasurable emerging from the reading and writing of source code has been acknowledged since the 1960s, in the early days of programming as a self-contained discipline, and is still discussed today. However, the formalization of an aesthetics of source code first requires a working definition of the concept of aesthetics as used in this study.
There is a long history of aesthetic philosphical inquiries in the Western tradition, from beauty as the imitation of nature, moral purification, disinterested appreciation, cognitive perfection, or sensible representations with emotional repercussions. The common point of these definitions is that of sensual manifestation , that is the set of visible forms which can enable an aesthetic experience , a cognitive state of pleasure relying on, amongst others, an object, a sense of unity and of discovery ( Beardsley, 1970) , as well as an aesthetic judgment , a value judgment which assess the particular goodness of an artefact under specific criteria.
The definition of aesthetics that we will use in this thesis starts from this requirement of sense perception, and then builds upon it using two theoretical frameworks: Nelson Goodman's theory of symbols ( Goodman, 1976) and Gérard Genette's distinction between fiction and diction ( Genette, 1993) . The former provides us with an analysis of formal systems in aesthetic manifestations and their role in a cognitive process, while the second offers a broadened perspective on what qualifies as textual arts, or literature.
Goodman's view on aesthetics is an essentially communicative one: we use aesthetics to carry across more or less complex concepts. This communication process happens through various symbol systems (e.g. pictural systems, linguistic systems, musical systems, choreographic systems), the nature and organization of which can elicit an aesthetic experience. His conception of such an aesthetic experience isn't one of self-referential composition, or of purely emotional pleasure, but a cognitive one, one which belongs to the field of epistemology ( Goodman, 1976) . The symbol systems involved in the aesthetic judgment bear different kinds of relations to the worlds they refer to—such as denoting, representing, ressembling, exemplifying— and their purpose is to communicate a truth about these worlds ( Goodman, 1978) . In Goodman's view, the arts and the sciences are, in the end, two sides of the same coin, as they aim at providing conceptual clarity through formal, systematic means. The arts—understood here in the broad, Renaissance sense of liberal arts—can and should be, according to him, approached with the same rigor as the sciences. In our case, programming, with its self-proclaimed craft-like status and its mathematical roots, stands equally across the arts and sciences.
Goodman's use of the term languages implies a broader set of linguistic systems than that of strictly verbal ones. This approach will support our initial conception of programming languages as verbal systems, but will allow us not to remain constrained by traditional literary aesthetics such as verse, rhyme or alliteration. Th extent to which programming is a linguistic activity is going to be one of the main inquiries of this thesis, and Goodman's extended, yet rigorous definition leaves us room to explore the semantic and syntactic dimension of source code as one of those languages of art.
With this analytical framework allowing us to analyze the matter at hand—program texts composed by a symbol system with an epistemic purpose—we turn to a more literary perspective on aesthetics. Genette's approach to literature, which he calls the art of language , results in the establishment of two dichotomies: fiction/diction, and constitutivity/conditionality. In Fiction and Diction  ( Genette, 1993) , he extends previous conceptions of literature and poetics, from Aristotle to Jakobson, in order to broaden the scope of what can be considered literature, by questioning the conditions under which a text is given a literary status. As such, he establishes the existence of conditional literature alongside constitutive literature: the former gains its status of a literary text from the individual, subjective aesthetic judgment bestowed upon it, while the latter relies on pre-exisiting structures, themes and genres. Focusing on conditionality, this approach paves the way for an extension of the domain of literature ( Gefen, 2019) , and a more subtle understanding of the aesthetic manifestation in an array of textual works, while keeping in mind the broad stylistic and functional categories which program texts can fall under.
Genette also makes the distinction between fiction, with the focus being the potentiality of a text's object, its imaginative qualities and themes, and diction, with an emphasis on the formal characteristics of the text. Since code holds two existences, one as executed, and one as written, I propose to map Genette's concept of fiction on to source code when the latter is considered as a purely functional text—i.e. what the source code ultimately does in its domain of application, through its execution. Because source code always holds software as a potential within its markings, waiting to be actualized through execution, one has to imagine what this code actually does. Written source code, then, could either be judged primarily on its fiction or on its diction—on what it does, or on how it does it. Since we focus on the written form of source code, and not on the type of its purpose, an attention to diction will be the entry point of this thesis.
A first approach to source code could be constitutive , in Genette's terms: a given program text could be considered aesthetically pleasing because the software it generates abides by some normative definitions of being aesthetically pleasing, or because the software itself is considered a piece of art in the socio-economic sense, shown in exhibitions and sold in galleries. However, our empirical approach to source code aesthetics, by examining various program texts directly, and our inquiry into the possibility of multiple aesthetic fields co-existing within source code as a symbol system, asks us to forgo this constitutive definition of an aesthetic work as normative categories within software development. Our focus on sense perception thus starts from a conditional approach, in which programmers emit an aesthetic judgment on a program text, with an emphasis first on what the source code is , and only secondly on what it does 2 . This conditional approach implies that we use a conception of the aesthetic that is broader than the artistic and the beautiful, encompassing less dramatic qualifiers, such as good or nice , and reaching into the domain of everyday aesthetics  ( Saito, 2012) .
Diction, then, focuses on the formal characteristics of the text. The point here is not to assume an autotelic, or self-referential, mode of existence for source code, but rather to acknowledge that there is a certain difference between the content of software and the form of its source—aesthetically pleasing source code does not guarantee great software. This thesis chooses to focus on the formal aspects of code such as not to restrict ourselves to any specific kind, or genre, of program texts, leaving open the possibility for these categories to emerge after our analysis.
So, following Genette's re-asking of the Goodman's question of When is art? rather than the historical What is art? , we can now proceed with our understanding of aesthetics as a set of physical manifestations which can be grasped by the senses , akin to "the movement of a light, the brush a fabric, the splash of a color" ( Ranciere, 2013) , which aim at enabling a cognitive, communicative purpose, and which are not exclusively constituted by pre-existing categories. Such physical manifestations can, in turn, support an evaluative appraisal of their objects of the concern, enabling an aesthetic judgment.
We also distinguish the aesthetic from the beautiful, which implies an emotional response and is closely tied to the artistic status of an artefact; we instead focus on the positive properties in everyday encounters, rather than in an art-historical context.
This overview of the theoretical frameworks of this thesis is already implicitly setting the boundaries of this study. The domain we are investigating here is one that is delimited by both medium and purpose. First, the medium limitations is that of text, in its material sense, as mentioned above in our definition of source code. Second, the purpose limitation is that of computable code, rather than computed code: we are examining latent programs, with their reality as texts and their virtuality as actions, rather than the other way around. Executed software and its set of digital affordances (e.g. graphical user interfaces ( Gelernter, 1998) , real-time interactivity ( Laurel, 1993) and process-intensive developments ( Murray, 1998) ) differ from the literary and architectural ones that software, in its written form, is claimed to exhibit. However, executable and executed software, being two sides of the same coin, might suggest causal relationships—e.g. the aesthetics of source code affecting the aesthetics of software—but we reserve such an inquiry for a subsequent study.
Now that we have explicited our object of study—the formal manifestations of software under its textual form—we can turn to a review of the research that has alredy been done on the subject, before highlighting some of the current limitations.

Literature review

A literature review on this topic must address the dualistic nature of studies on source code, as research can be distinguished between the fields of computer science and engineering on one side, and that of the humanities on the other. This overview will provide us with a better sense of which aspects of code and aesthetics have been explored until now, and will invite us to address the remaining gaps.
We have seen that most technical literature, starting from The Art of Computer Programming , acknowledges the role that aesthetics have to play in the writing and reading of program texts. Along with the positions of Knuth and Dijkstra regarding the importance of paying attention to the aspects of programming practice ( Dijkstra, 1972) which go beyond strictly mathematical and engineering requirements, Kerninghan and Plauer publish in 1978 their Elements of Programming Style  ( Kernighan, 1978) . In it, they focus on how code snippets with a given intent could be rewritten in order to keep the same intent but gain in quality—that is, in readability and understandability. For instance, the program in    can be rewritten into the program in    , which keeps the exact same functionality, but exhibits different formal manifestations. Specifically, the first listing involves a special case for each single digit, while the second listing reduces the syntax, allowing the program text to gain not just in concision but also in generality.

void leftpad(int i)
    char* c;
    if (i == 0)
        c = '00';
    if (i == 1)
        c = '01';
    if (i == 2)
        c = '02';
    if (i == 3)
        c = '03';
    if (i == 4)
        c = '04';
    if (i == 5)
        c = '05';
    if (i == 6)
        c = '06';
    if (i == 7)
        c = '07';
    if (i == 8)
        c = '08';
    if (i == 9)
        c = '09';

- A very verbose way to left pad a digit with zeroes in the C language.

void leftpad(int i)
    char *c;
    if (i >= 0 && i < 10)
        c = '0' + i;

- A very terse way to left pad a digit with zeroes in the C language.
Why it becomes much clearer, though is not explicited by the authors in terms of concepts such as cognitive surface, repleteness of a symbol system or metaphorical representation of the main idea(s) at play (promoting an integer to a character, rather than individually checking for each integer case). As the authors do employ terms which will form the basis of an aesthetics of software development, such as clarity, simplicity, or expressiveness, there are nonetheless no overarching principles deployed to systematize the manifestation of such principles, only examples are given.
While Kernighan and Plauer do not directly address the depth of the relationship of source code and aesthetics, this is something that Peter Molzberger undertakes five years later through an empirical, qualitative study aimed at highlighting the role aesthetics play in an expert programmer's practice ( Molzberger, 1983) . Molzberger's study touches upon ideas of over-arching structure, tension between clarity and personality, and levels of expertise in aesthetic judgment. This short paper highlights multiple instances of code deemed beautiful which will be explored further in this thesis, without providing an answer as to why this might be the case. For instance, a conception of code as literature does not explain instances involving switch in scales and directions of reading, or a conception of code as mathematics does not explain the explicitly required need for a personal touch when writing source code ( Molzberger, 1983) . This is an identification of symptoms, but without explicit connection to a possibly common cause.
In the context of formal academic research, such as the IEEE or the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), subsequent work focuses on how to quantitatively assess a given quality of source code either through a social perspective on stylistic stances ( Oman, 1990) , on the process of writing ( Norick, 2010) , a semantic perspective on the lexicon being used ( Fakhoury, 2019 Guerrouj, 2013) , an empirical study of programming style in the efficiency of software teams ( Reed, 2010 Coleman, 2018) or on the visual presentation of code in the comprehension process ( Marcus, 1982) or through direct interviews ( Hermans, 2020) . These focus on the connection of aesthetics with the performance of software development—beautiful code as being related to a productive programmer and good end-product. These methodologies are mostly quantitative, and do not take into account the "artistry" and "craft" component as laid out by Knuth and Molzberger, but are rather a big-data representation of Kernighan and Plauer's approach. In the emerging field of the psychology of aesthetics, we can point to the work of Kozbelt, Dexter et. al., who conducted quantitiative surveys of programmers' relationship with aesthetics ( Kozbelt, 2012) , as well as qualitative analyses of the relationship between embodiment, aesthetics and code ( Dexter, 2011) . The latter study also investigated the metaphorical references that programmers make to code, showing how programmers use terms like flow , balance , flexible to refer to beautiful code ( Dexter, 2011) . The parallel they establish between lexical uses and embodied cognition also draws on the work of Lakoff et. al. to consider these metaphors as having a cognitive purpose, a methodology we also follow. This research aims to build on their research and develop, from their discussion of metaphor and embodiment, how we can conceive an aesthetics of source code with a relationship to various understandings of space.
The development of software engineering as a profession has led to the publication of several books of specialized literature, taking a more practical approach to writing good code. Robert C. Martin's Clean Code 's audience belongs to the fields of business and professional trade, drawing on references from architecture, literature and craft in order to lay out the requirements of what he considers to be clean code. These specific mechanisms are highlighted in terms of how they will support a productive increase in the quality of software developed, as opposed as being satisfying in and of themselves. Clean Code was followed by a number of additional publications on the same topic and with the same approach ( Fowler, 1999 Arns, 2005 Hunt, 1999) . Here, these provide an interesting counterpoint to academic research on the formal quality of code by relying on different traditions, such as the practical handbook, to explain why the formal aspect of code is important.
Technical and engineering literature, then, establish the existence of and need for aesthetics, presented as formal properties which then constitute quality code . The methodology of these studies is often empirical, in the case of academic articles, looking at large corpora or interviewing programmers in order to draw conclusions regarding this relationship between formal properties and quality. Monographs and business literature draw on the experiences of their authors as programmers to provide source code examples of specific principles, without extending on the rationale and coherence of these principles, let alone within a source code-specific aesthetic framework. A particularly salient example is Greg Oram's edited volume Beautiful Code , in which expert programmers are invited to pick a piece of code and explain why they like it, sometimes commenting it line by line ( UNKNOWN AUTHOR, 2007) . This very concrete, empirical inquiry into what makes source code beautiful does not, however, include a comprehensive and consistent conclusion as to what actually makes code beautiful, but rather writing why they like the idea behind the code, or manifestoes such as Matz's Code as an Essay , in which he develops a personal perspective based on experience. As such, this monograph will be integrated in our corpus, as commentary rather than academic research. Another limitation to these studies is that they only address one specific group of programmers, and one specific type of software being written. In effect, those who write and read source code are far from being a homogeneous whole, and can be placed along distinct lines with distinct practices and standards ( Hayes, 2015) (see  The practices of programmers   ). None of these studies considers whether the conclusions established for one group would be valid for the others.
One should also note the specific field of philosophy of computer science, which inquires into the nature of computation, from ontological, epistemological and ethical points of view. These are useful both in the meta positioning they take regarding computer science as they well as in their demonstration that issues of representation, interpretation and implementation are still unresolved in the field. Particularly, Rapaport's Philosophy of Computer Science provides an exhaustive literature review of the different fields which computer science is being compared to, from mathematics, engineering and art but—interestingly—few references to computer science as having any kind of relation with literature ( Rapaport, 2005) . Another, more specific perspective is given by Richard P. Gabriel in his Patterns of Software , in which he looks at software as a similar endeavour as architecture, drawing on the works of Christopher Alexander and focusing on its relationship to patterns, a subject we will investigate more in chapter 3. Finally, Brian Cantwell-Smith's introduction to his upcoming The Age of Significance: An Essay on the Origins of Computation and Intentionality touches upon these similar ideas of intentionality by suggesting both that computation might be more productively studied from a humanities or artistic point of view than form a strictly scientific point of view ( Smith, 1998) . These philosophical inquiries into computation mention aesthetics mostly on the periphery, but nonetheless challenge the notion of computation as strictly functional and mechanical, and suggest that additional perspectives on the topic are needed, including that of the arts.
From a humanities perspective, recent literature taking source code as the central object of their study covers fields as diverse as literature, science and technology studies, humanities and media studies and philosophy. Each of these monographs, edited volumes, catalog articles, book chapters or PhD theses, engage with code in its multiple intricacies. Software applications, source code excerpts, programming environments and languages are included as primary sources, and are considered as texts to be read, examined and interpreted.
A first look at Aesthetic Computing , edited by Paul A. Fishwick allows us to highlight one of the important points of this thesis: the collection of essays in this collected volume focus more often on the graphical output of the software's work from the end-user's perspective than on the textual manifestations of their source (e.g. Nake and Grabowski's essay on the interface as aesthetic event) ( UNKNOWN AUTHOR, 2006) . As for most studies of aesthetics within computer science, the main focus is on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) as the art and science of presenting visually the output and affordances of a running program. While a vast and complex field, it is not the topic of this thesis which, rather than focusing on the aesthetics of the computable and executable, is limited to the aesthetics of the computed (texts).
The following works, because of their dealing with source code as text, and due to the background of their authors in literature and comparative media studies, incorporate some aspect of literary theory and criticism, and authors such as N. Katherine Hayles, Maurice J. Black and Alan Sondheim rely on it as their preferred lens. Black, in his PhD dissertation The Art of Code  ( Black, 2002) initiates the idea of a cross between programming and literature, and hypothesizes that writing source code is an act that is closer to modernism than postmodernism, as it relies on concepts of authorship, formal linguistic systems and, to some extent, self-reference. The aim of the study is to show how code functions with its own aesthetic, one which is distinct and yet closely related to a literary aesthetic. After highlighting how the socio-political structures of computing since the 1950s have affected the constitution of the idea of a code aesthetic both in professional and amateur programmers, Black moves towards the examination of code practices as aesthetic practices. Here, Black limits himself to the presentation of coding practices insofar as they are identified and referred to as aesthetic practices, but exclusively through a social, second-hand account, rather than formal, definition of a source code aesthetic through the close reading of program texts.
Black establishes programming as literature, and vice-versa, he assumes that it is possible to write about literature through the lens of source code. However, the actual analysis of source code with the help of formal literary theories is almost entirely side-stepped, mentioning only Perl poetry as an overtly literary use of code, even though it represents only a minor fraction of all program texts. In summary, Black provides a first study in code as a textual object and as a textual practice whose manifestations programmers care deeply about, but does not address what makes code poetry different in its writing, reading and meaning-making than natural-language poetry.
N. Katherine Hayles, in My Mother Was A Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts  ( Hayles, 2010) , and particularly in the Speech, Writing, Code: Three Worldviews essay temporarily removes code from its immediate social and historical situations and establishes it as a cognitive tool as significant in scale as those of orality and literacy ( Ong, 2012) , and attempts to qualify this worldview both in opposition to Saussure's parole and Derrida's trace , following cybernetics and media studies scholars such as Friedrich Kittler and Mark B. Hansen. Specifically, she introduces the idea of a Regime of Computation, which relies on the conceptual specificities of code-based expression (among which: depth, dynamism, fragmentation, etc.). Source-code specific contributions touch upon literary paradigms and cognitive effect in two ways. First, she highlights the way code recombines some traditional dialectics of literary theory, namely paradigmatic/syntagmatic, discrete/continuous, compilation/interpretation, and flat/stacked languages, clearly acting as a different mode of expression. Second, she draws on a comparison between two main programming paradigms, object-oriented programming and procedural programming, and on the syntax of programming languages, such as C++, in order to show a novel relationship between the structure and the meaning of programming texts, a structure which depends on its degree of similarity with natural languages.
While Hayles provides the basis for a much deeper analysis of source code's formal literary properties, she also maintains that source code studies should keep in mind the ever-underlying materiality that this very source code relies on; and then locates this materiality in the embodiment of users and readers, along with authors such as Mark Hansen ( Hansen, 2006) and Bernadette Wegenstein ( Wegenstein, 2010) . Beyond the brief acknowledgment that she has of the political and economical conditions of software development and their impact on electronic texts, Hayles also stops short of considering programming languages in their varieties, and the concrete apparatuses and traces which support them (documentation, architectures, compilers, tutorials, conferences and communities). Building on these material approaches, we will include in our research a conception of programming languages as not just medium, but also material, in order to investigate the formal possibilities they afford in the writing of source code.
Alan Sondheim's essay Codework  ( Sondheim, 2001) , as the introduction of the American Book Review issue dedicated to this specific form, provides another aspect of poetry which integrates source code as a creole language emerging from the interplay of natural and machine languages. Yet, this specific aspect of literary work scans the surface of code rather than its structure and therefore provides more insight as to how humans represent code through speech, rather than representing speech through code. This presents a somewhat postmodern view of programming languages, approaching them as a relational, mutable conception of language as as series speech-acts, and leaving aside their structural and post-structural characteristics. Codework is essentially defined by its content and milieu , one which focuses on human exchanges and bypasses any involvement of machine-processing.
Another perspective on the relationship between speech and code is explored by Geoff Cox and Alex Mclean in Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression  ( Cox, 2013) . They establish reading, writing and executing source code as a speech-act, extending J.L. Austin's theory to a broader political application by including Arendt's approach of human activities and labor ( Arendt, 1998) , from which coding is seen as the practice of producing laboring speech-acts.
They consider source code as a located, instantiated presence, understood as a semantic object with a political load affecting the multiple economic, social and discursive environments in which it lives. Focusing on speech particularly, this study doesn't quite address the syntactic specificities of codes, for example by looking at the use of loops, arrays, or other syntactical structures briefly touched upon by Hayles, and focusing on its imperative qualities. Side-stepping the particular grammatical features of that speech, the authors nonetheless often illustrate the points they are working through, or begin developing those points, with snippets of code written by either McLean or software artists, thus engaging with details of source code and taking a step away from the dangers of fetishizing code, or sourcery  ( Chun, 2008) . They include both deductive code (commenting existing source code) or inductive code (code written to act as an example to a point developed by the authors), in a show of the intertextuality of program texts and natural texts.
Away from the cultural relevance of code as developed by Cox and McLean, Florian Cramer focuses on the cultural history of writing in computation, tying our contemporary attention to source code into an older web of historical attempts at integrating combinatorial and supernatural practices from Hebraic texts to Leibniz's universal languages ( Cramer, 2003) . It is in this space between magic and logic that Cramer locates today's experiments in source code (i.e. source code poetry, esoteric languages and codeworks). Such a positioning of technology across the realms of art, religion and knowledge can also be found in Simondon's definition of a technical object's essence ( Simondon, 1958) . By relocating it between magic and reality, code is no longer just arbitrary symbols, or machine instructions but also ideal execution, a set of discrete forms which relate to the totality of the world. As formal execution is considered a cosmogonical force, it becomes synonymous with performative execution, through which it ties back to cultural practices throughout the ages, within both religious and scientific contexts.
Cramer extracts five gradients along which to apprehend code-based works: totality/fragmentation, rationalization/occultation, hardware/software, syntax/semantics, artificial/natural language. While all these axes overlap each other, it is the syntax/semantics axis which aligns most with this research, given our particular attention to textuality. Yet, we will see how how themes of obfuscation, fragmentation, language and material will come into play as we develop our inquiry. Towards the end of the book, his development of the concept of speculative programming is also particularly fruitful as the attempt to become a figure of thought and reflection in theory and artistic practice. Cramer states:
formalisms [ ] have a cultural semantics of their own, even on the most primitive and basic level. With a cultural semantics, there inevitably is an aesthetics, subjectivity and politics in computing. ( Cramer, 2003)
This points to the relationship between the formal disposition of source code within program texts and the cultural communities composed of the writers and readers of these program texts. As such, it highlights that code does have social components of varying natures, insofar as it operates as an expressive medium between varying subjects.
Adrian Mackenzie takes on such a social approach to source code, as part of a broader inquiry on the nature of software, through this social lens in Cutting Code: Software and Sociality  ( Mackenzie, 2006) . The author focuses on a relational ontology of software, rather than on a phenomenology: it is defined in how it acts upon, and how it is being acted upon by, external structures, from intellectual property frameworks to design philosophies in software architectures; it only provides an operational definition—software is what it does. His analysis of source code poetry focuses on famous Perl poems, Jodi's code-based artworks and Alex McLean's forkbomb.pl  (see    ), concerned with the executability of code as its dominant feature, dismissing Perl poetry as " a relatively innocuous and inconsequential activity "  ( Mackenzie, 2006) . While software could indeed be a "patterning of social relations" ( Mackenzie, 2006) , these social relations also take place through highly-constrained linguistic combinations in program texts. Such an ethnographic study of programmers has also been conducted by Pierre Lévy, in which je draws a fertile line between literature and architecture when it comes to considering the making of source code, as well as a tight coupling of technology, fine arts and intellect ( Lévy, 1992) ; yet he focuses on the material processes of writing code, the interactions between programmers and between programmers and machines, leaving aside the specific features of the program texts resulting from such work.
This tending to the material realities of software embedded within social and cultural networks and traditions is echoed in David M. Berry's The Philosophy of Software: Computation and Mediation in the Digital Age . His definition of materialities, however, focuses on the technical and organizational processes around code (e.g. work management, specifications, test suites), rather than on the processes within code (e.g. styles, files and languages). While this former definition results in what he calls a semiotic place  ( Berry, 2011) , a location in which those processes are organized meaningfully, such a semiotic sense of space also applies, as we will see in  Cognitive aesthetics in program texts   , to those intrinsic properties of source code.
Focusing specifically on the category of code poetry, Camille Paloque-Bergès published, a couple of years later, Poétique des codes sur le réseau informatique  ( Paloque-Bergès, 2009) . This work deploys both linguistic and cultural studies theorists such as Barthes and De Certeau in order to explain these playful acts of source code poetry, along with works of esoteric languages and net.art. The first chapter focuses on digital literature as the result of executed code in order to develop a heuristic to approach source code, while the third and last chapter focusing on the means of distribution of these works, particularly on the development of net.art, 1337 5p43k and codeworks. In the second chapter, PaloqueBergès provides an introduction to creative acts in source code on both a conceptual level (drawing from Hayles and Montfort) and on a technical, syntactical level. She looks at specific programming patterns and practices ( hello world  , quines), technical syntax (e.g. $  ,  @  as Perl tokens for expressing singular or plurals) and cultural paradigms (De Certeau's tactics and strategies), as she attempts to highlight the specificities of source code for aesthetic manifestation and invites further work to be done in this dual vein of close-reading and theoretical contextualization, beyond specific instances of poetic program texts.
Honing in on a minimal excerpt, 10 PRNT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)) : GOTO 10;   ( Montfort, 2014) , is a collaborative work examining the cultural intertwinings of a single line of code, through hardware, language, syntax, outputs and themes. The whole endeavour is a rigorous close-reading of source code, in a deductive fashion, working from the words on the screen and elaborating on the context within which these words exist, in order to establish the cultural relevance of source code. While the study itself, being a close-reading of a single work, and particularly a one-liner , itself a specific genre, is restricted in terms of broad aesthetic statements, it does show how it is possible to talk about code not as an abstract construct but as a concrete reality. Particularly interesting is the section dedicated to the history of the BASIC programming language, and how particular languages afford particular statements and actions in a given historical context, a point often glossed over in other studies.
A current synthesis of these approaches, Mark C. Marino's Critical Code Studies  ( Marino, 2020) and the eponymous research field it belongs to focuses on close-reading of source code as a method for interpreting it as discourse. Particularly, it is organized around cases studies: each with source code, annotations and commentary. This structure furthers the empirical approach we have seen in Cox and McLean's code, or in Paloque-Bergès's examples, starting from lines of source code in order in order to deduce cultural and social environments and intents through interpretation. This particular monograph, as is stated in the conclusion, offers a set of possible methodologies rather than conclusions in order to engage with code as its textual manifestations, assuming that the source code, viewed from different angles, can reveal more than its functional purpose. While Marino, with a background in the humanities, focuses mostly on the literary properties of code as a textual artifact, this thesis builds here on some of his methodologies. Particularly, we will focus our reading on how the form of the code complements its process and output, and will pay close attention to clever re-purposing or insight. However, while Marino mentions the aesthetics of code, he does not address the systematic composition of these aesthetics—focusing primarily on what the code means and only secondarily on how the code means it.
From a more historical perspective, Warren Sack's The Software Arts  ( Sack, 2019) historicizes software development as an epistemological practice, rather than as a strictly economic trade. Connecting some of the main components of software (language, algorithm, grammar), he demonstrates how these are rooted in a liberal arts conception of knowledge and practice, particularly visible as a continuation of Diderot and D'Alembert's encyclopedic attempt at formalizing craft practices. By examining this other, humanistic, tradition in parallel with its dominantly acknowledged scientific counterpart, Sack shows the multiple facets that code and software can support. Starting from the concept of "translation" as an updated version of Manovich's "transcoding", Sack analyzes what is being translated by computing, such as analyses, rhetoric and logic, but does not however address the nature of the processes into which these concepts are translated—algorithms as (liberal) ideas, but not as texts. Nonetheless, this work offers a switch in perspective which will be helpful when we come to consider the relationship of source code with domains that are not primarily related to the sciences—i.e. the literary and the architectural, approached from a craft perspective—as well as with the problem domain which code aims at depicting.
This activity of programming as craft, already acknowledged by programmers themselves, is further explored in Erik Piñeiro's doctoral thesis ( Pineiro, 2003) . In it, he examines the concrete, social and practical justifications for the existence of aesthetics within the software development community. Departing from specific, hand-picked examples such as those featured in Marino's study, his is more of an anthropological approach, revealing what role aesthetics play in a specific community of practitioners. Outlining references to ideas such as cleanliness , simplicity , tightness , robustness , amongst others, as aesthetic ideals that programmers aspire to, he does not however summon any specific aesthetic field (whether from literature, mathematics, craft or engineering), but rather frames it in terms of instrumental goodness , with the aesthetics of code being an attempt to reach excellence in instrumental action. While he carefully lays out his argument by focusing on what programmers actually say, as they exchange about there practice online, he uncovers some aesthetic ideals underpinning a certain practice of programming. However, there remains two limitations: it is not clear how source code as a textual material can afford to reach such aesthetic ideals, and whether or not these aesthetic ideals apply to other groups of writers of code, such as code poets, hackers or scientists. Nonetheless, this empirical approach from the discourses of programmers is a methodology which this study shares.
In summary, this literature review allows us to have a better grasp of how the relationship between source code and aesthetics has been studied, both from a scientific and engineering perspective, and from a humanities perspective.
In the former approach, aesthetics are acknowledged as a component of reading and writing code, and assessed through practical examples, quantitiative analysis and, to a lesser extent, qualitative interviews. The research focus is on the effectiveness of aesthetics in code, rather than on unearthing a systematic approach to making code beautiful, even though issues of cognitive friction and understanding, as well as ideals of cleanliness, readability, simplicity and elegance do arise. As such, they form a starting point of varied, empirical investigations, but do not consider how source code aesthetics might overlap with various other aesthetic domains.
On a more metaphysical level, works in the field of philosophy of computer science point at the fact that the nature of computing and software are themselves evasive, straddling different lines while not aligning clearly with either science, engineering or arts—pointing out that software is indeed something different.
As for the humanities, the focus is predominantly on literary heuristics of a restricted corpus or on socio-cultural dynamics, and the details and examples of the actual code syntax and semantics are often omitted, even though the aesthetic aspects of a literary or cultural nature are equated with a new kind of writing. There is a potential for beauty and art in source code, particularly salient in code poetry, but such potential is not assessed through the same empirical lense as the former part of our literature review, even though it also addresses which intrinsic features of code can support aesthetic judgments and experiences.
Still, some recent studies, such as those by Paloque-Bergès, Montfort et. al, Cox and McLean and Marino, do engage directly with source code examples, and these constitute important landmarks for a code-specific aesthetic theory and methodology, whether it is as poetic language, speech-act, or critical commentary. Source code is taken as a unique literary device, yet it remains unclear in which aspects, besides its executability, it is different from both natural languages and low-level machine languages, and how this literary aspect relates to the effective, mathematical and craft-like nature of source code, as considered in the computer science and engineering literature.
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