The beauty of the Byte
A 3D animation in 4KB – impressive for its file size and its amazing graphics. Is it art? Is it craft? Or something completely different?
Computer technology has opened up exciting new avenues for artists, due to the possibilities it offers for manipulation of source materials (such as digital images) and real-time collaboration with other artists. Computer-generated art, however, does not easily fit into existing models of aesthetic appreciation: creating it requires a unique blend of artistic finesse and technological skill that is unlike any other art form. In the demoscene subculture, for example, a common form of artistic expression is the intro, an audiovisual presentation generated in real-time by a computer program that fits within a specific file size limit. Taking either the programming skill or the audiovisual appeal in those intros is not sufficient to explain the appeal these have to their audience. Employing both theories about “code as craft” and the power of context in appreciation of more traditional works of art, I present a model for aesthetic appreciation of intros in which both factors reinforce each other; the visuals hold appeal because of the programming constraints within which they are generated, while the programming code is appreciated because of the visuals it produces. Rather than looking at either aspect of intros on its own, the two should be seen as forming a mutually-reinforcing complex that unites the unique characteristics of demoscene intros.