We will then turn back to our research questions to show how semantic compression and spatial exploration are crucial components of source code aesthetics. Indeed, the specific aesthetics of source code are those of a constant doubling between the specificities of the human (such as natural handling of ambiguity, intuitive understanding of the problem domain, and ability to shift perspectives) and of the machine (such as speed of execution, and reliance on explicit formal grammars). This duality will also be seen in the tension between surface structure, one that is textual and readable, and deep structure, one that is made up of dynamic processes representing complex concepts, and yet devoid of any fluidity or ambiguity. It is this dynamism, both in terms of where and when code could be executed, which suggest the use of aesthetics in order to grasp more intuitively the topology and chronology, the state and behaviour of an executed program text. We will show how particular formal configurations, at the level of vocabulary, syntax, structure and style, ultimately involve the compression of human semantics and computer semantics, in conjunction with the ability to enable non-linear, writerly exploration of the program texts.
Finally, we will relate Goodman's conception of art as cognitively effective symbol system, and of Simondon's consideration of aesthetic thought as a link between technical thought and religious thought. Starting from a practical perspective on aesthetics taking from the field of craft—the thing well done—, aesthetics also highlight functionality on a cognitive level—the thing well thought. Beauty in source code seems to be dominantly what is useful and thoughtful, even when they are reflected in the distorting mirrors of hacks and esoteric languages, broadening our possible conceptions of what aesthetics can do, and what functionality can be.