The aesthetics of code : on excellence in instrumental action

Abstract: Software systems form an essential part of Western society,serving as tools to uphold institutions, processes andservices. It is understandable, therefore, that the mostfundamental aspects of programs are their function and utility.But they are not, however, the only things programmers areconcerned with when writing them.On the contrary, programmers also discuss about many otheraspects of software, including the beauty of code. Theydistinguish between different programming styles and expresstheir personal preferences, often by way of admiring andvilifying other people's code. Programmers' identification withaesthetic preferences may give rise to vanity, to disagreementsso entrenched that they deserve the name of 'holy wars' and toother similar phenomena.This thesis describes and analyses these phenomena, whichultimately originate in the human faculty to create andappreciate nuances, to become attached to them and to engage indisputes because of them - even infields as standardised ascomputer programming. Its aim is to expose the aesthetics ofcode, and in doing so, to discuss the symbolic aspects ofinstrumental action at large.Keywords:aesthetics, code, instrumental action,internet discussion fora, programming, symbolic action