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Does one have to write code to make art or music with digital tools? Two proponents of code are designer/MIT Media Lab professor John Maeda (on the hi-fi end of the digital spectrum) and the BEIGE crew (on the low end--for a manifesto see this interview
). The former may be a good programmer but he's not a particularly good artist, as anyone who saw his shows at Cristinerose Gallery will attest, whereas the BEIGE-rs are good artists arguably independent of their hacking skills. The beef about using consumer software is that an engineer makes aesthetic choices for you. But there is a whole side of digital art production devoted to thwarting the programs through non-coding means---by physical interventions like damaging CDs or analog tricks such as messing with the audio or printer output or simply using the programs "wrong"--overstressing them till they start producing intriguing gobbledegook. If you limited yourself to coding you'd miss out on other fun ways to make Photoshop and MAX-MSP break down.
UPDATE: This discussion continues in these follow-up posts: 2