Creative code

Creative code is computer programming. It is a set of instructions that tell the hardware to create something. In Alex Russell’s case, the outcome is an artwork, but it could be anything. Coders can make music, video, poetry and all kinds of other creative outputs. Code is a language that the computer or other device uses to make the result. For example, Alex writes a lot of his code in ExtendScript, a language that works in tandem with Adobe software. He also uses Processing, which is an open-source project designed for creative use. (If you want to start creative coding, it is a great place to begin.)

Finished code runs to automatically create the output. Generally, this can happen in two ways. Firstly, the code runs and stops, creating something like a static image. Secondly, the code goes on running. This results in something that changes over time, such as video art.

Some creative code produces the same result each time with each run. Other code creates something different every time. For instance, some of the instructions might involve some randomness, such as choosing a colour at random. In addition, the code can make decisions about what to do based on what’s already happened. For example, if too much of the image is red, the code might then only choose other colours.

In his biography of Alan Turing, George Dyson says that “[computers] broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things”. Creative coders get the numbers to make beautiful things.

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