The Argument For Coders As Artists

April 21st, 2016


By Rishon Blumberg, 10x Management Co-Founder

You go to a museum to see the paintings, sculptures and photographs by some of the world’s best known artists. On Broadway, TV and Film you watch some of the most talented and best known actors. At your fingertips you have over 25 million songs by some of the most famous musicians, thanks to your favorite streaming service. You can also now download almost any book written by both famous and not-so-famous authors spanning the last 200 years. They are all artists and they likely all have worked, at one point or another, with some form of manager or agent. They are the kinds of talent that you would associate with this type of representation.

But, is someone who writes software code not an artist as well?

An author uses the same 26 letters to write a book that the rest of us do in our writing.  It’s not the letters that amaze, but the way they are combined together that enthralls us.  Writing an equation to express actions within the real world or to solve problems and to string lines of code together to create an efficiency, which prior to, had not been possible…is that not poetry in motion as well?

Fundamentally, we believe it is.  And we believe at 10x Management that we represent a new generation of artists — the world’s best coding talent — that we match with both large and small businesses who need access to top-tier tech help.  And this tech talent, like musicians, actors or athletes, needs managers or agents to help ensure they can focus on their craft, and not on negotiating contracts.  They often benefit from having an agent to help them chart a course, that over the long haul will make for a broad and fulfilling career.

We see many instances where coding talent and artistic talent share many of the same traits. Here are a few key similarities.  From this, you can make your own determination if developers are artists.

  1. Both Artists and Developers Tend to be Nocturnal – like any good artist, coders often do their best work, and find their greatest inspirations after hours; often times during periods of solitude when the rest of the world shuts off.  It’s one of the reasons we advocate that coding work should not be done in an office.  Both coders and artists do their best work when they are in Flow and that often requires solitude and quiet to be achieved.  The fewer distractions, the better the art.
  2. Great Artists and Great Coders See The World Differently – Mozart created his first original compositions when he was 4 or 5 years old.  By 17 he was working as a professional musician.  Picasso created art at a similar early age and by 15 was creating elaborate works.  When Mozart heard music he simply understood it…when Picasso looked at a canvas he envisioned images never before seen.  This is the way great developers view code.  Whether it’s an operating system created by Steve Wozniak or Facebook created by Mark Zuckerberg there is an authentic voice being expressed in the form of never before seen technology.
  3. Like Great Art, Great Technical Innovation Can Incite Passions…Even Revolution – In 1855, Walt Whitman’s famous poetry, Leaves Of Grass was considered obscene by many critics, but Ralph Waldo Emerson considered it a work of genius and today that’s the common opinion.  In the 70s and 80s, the work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was banned and protested but today commands record prices at auction. Once reviled, both of these artist are now revered as American treasures.  Similarly, the best technology can be equally disruptive and captivating.  Take the Arab Spring of the last decade.  Twitter and Facebook were often cited as helping to give voice to the movement.  Great coding helps to disrupt and create new norms in much the same way that art does.
  4. Great Art Like Great Tech Makes The World Better – Ok, this is a pretty grand statement but if you step back and look at your iPhone, or your Instagram feed or your Kindle, can you believe there was a time BEFORE these items?  Can you imagine a world without music?  Can you imagine the world without the internet?  The best art inspires and the best tech can help give flight to that inspiration. Let’s face it…in many ways, a group of geeks, coders and programmers are shaping our future.

Art is subjective, one person’s masterpiece is another person’s garbage.  This article in turn can be viewed the same way but as you’ll see above, there is a strong argument to be made that exceptional technical talent IS talent much the same way an artist or actor is talent.  They both create, they both view the world through a unique lense and in the best cases, they both help the world to be a slightly better place.

If you like this article please recommend and/or share it. I’d appreciate any comments or feedback.

You might also like reading our Q&A Interview with 10xer: David Aronson, who also happens to be an interactive sculptural artist.