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No, not because there's something wrong with the field; I love computing, I love logic, and I love all the nuances of implications of what it is to develop a piece of software. There are so many angles to it, and there are even anthropological aspects to it. But I guess I'm kinda alone in seeing that, and this is basically my point in this pointless rant. See, for some time I have suspected that this "culture" that has arisen around IT and Computer Science kinda bothers me. For a long time it was mostly just a hunch, or maybe even plain prejudice; but in the last few months, I think I'm spotting something of a pattern.
See, in March, I got into this University project about free improvisation in music. The whole thing is mostly the brainchild of a music professor who loves and worships improvisation, and in a couple of weeks, I got into this nucleus of guys who love music, love making it and love talking about it. We've spent hours chatting in a bar, chugging down copious amounts of beer, cracking jokes and phony imitations of celebrities, and discussing our musical tastes and preferences without any kind of reservations; we talk about our likes and dislikes without fear of hurting anyone's feelings or looking like an uncultured pleb. Those discussions, as well as our improv sessions, have clicked in me the notion of how important it is to share our impressions on things. They may not be necessarily "opinions", but just our notions on how things work, no matter how vague they can be. Any thought can be a raw material for something interesting, as long as we're open to the human side of things, you know? We don't need to punish ourselves for our own thought, no matter how "wrong" they can be, and we don't need to condemn others for their own "wrong" thoughts. Everything can be a step in a collective kind of learning that takes me somewhere better.
With all that, I thought about taking some of that attitude into my workplace. Most of my colleagues are either folks in their prime adulthood trying to achieve stability, or fresh kids just wading through college (like I was just 6 years ago or so). I can chat about life and current events, but the younger folks seem to be on a different universe, as if they don't belong in my world or something like that. I mean, they mostly love superhero movies, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, online gaming and stuff like that. But hey, we're got to have something we share, you know? Then I started making weekly "musical suggestions" in our whiteboard, just dropping titles of albums and artists that, not only I enjoy, but I also think they're nice for other people to get into. Mostly I was hoping that some discussion, however shy, would come up. It didn't happen. But alright, I didn't mind.
Then, in one barbecue a few weeks ago, I got into a discussion about gaming with a few other guys. I thought, finally, I'm at home talking about something, finding that middle ground. I thought maybe I could discuss the things I loved and the things I hated about gaming, my moments of anger and my moments of ecstasy, games that I wished to forget and games I love remembering. Soon I found myself listening to a lengthy series of facts about whatever game I mentioned; this game goes like this, this and that; that other game proceeds like this, this and that; and so on. Soon they were talking about DOTA 2, and idly listing wards and characters and whatever else; just lengthy, cold lists of facts, without any human impressions at all. And then I figured: this was the problem. Whenever some discussions arose, all the comments were mostly either about facts or about readymade opinions crafted in some Internet article. There didn't seem to be any spark of subjectivity and passion about anything they said.
I realise I'm saying this among a bunch of people who are very artistically minded, and do not tend to have such a clinical approach to things; so I won't be surprised if it sounds like I'm exaggerating. But the feeling I have is that such sterility in discussions is kind of institutionalised. Both the academia and the corporate environments seem to drain out that kind of humanity, that kind of cultural baggage we carry, and favour ways that are very direct and unambiguous to address anything. It's like everything has one perfect solution, and our job is only to find it; like everything is already out there, so we don't need to create anything, just imitate; and whenever someone suggests "thinking outside the box", it just means "give money to his greasy bastard who thinks he knows it all". I understand that many times "opinions" don't matter much, when facts and evidence have a much greater weight in how we should proceed about things; but not everything is objective. Art, for one, isn't always objective. I'm not one of those who says that "EVERYTHING IS SUBJECTIVE!" (which I frankly believe is a very demeaning and patronising way to say people shouldn't be corrected when they're incorrect), but our culture, our personal experiences and perceptions greatly define how we see and make art, and that's what's exciting... and I think that's missing from my environment.
Now, you may believe that, since computer science is so logical and rigorous, that's a good thing. ... but it's not! Building software is often not a matter of hard logic. Common sense, experience and intuition play large roles in the decisions we make, and there's plenty of research suggesting that people who are artistically trained have sharper skills in designing software and writing code; and that makes sense, after all, software is just a shell between the cold logic of the computer and the human world, and we need to know both. Not only are the users human, but the developers are human too; every code we write is written for another human being! So approaching development as a math related field is, I think, very misleading. That may work for more formal and theoretical areas in computer science, but not for development. We need the human touch in our field, and I fear there may be a deficiency.
Art and culture has a lot to teach to us, developers, and I feel I have a role to fulfil in this. I'm just not sure how, and I feel responsible. I don't think it's right for me to feel just like a fish out of the water in the middle of this, after all, not only do I like working in this area, but it's where I'm the most adept. Of course I won't get all my colleagues into a musical freak-out improv session by the end of the month, but if I can get a little bit of that spark of passion and intuition into those folks, I'll be happy. But maybe I'm entirely wrong in this assessment, so actually I am in need of a spark of truth in the middle of all this. I just wish I can do some good to the people I share my professional life with. I care about this stuff.
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"
-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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