Cracking the Code

Cracking the Code

01010111011001010110110001100011011011110110110101
100101001000000111010001101111001000000111010001
101000011001010010000001101101011000010110001101
101000011010010110111001100101001011100010000001
010111011001011001001001110110011001010010000001
100010011001010110010101101110001000000110010101
1110000111000001100101011000110111010001101001011
01110011001110010000001111001011011110111010100101
110

Yup, that’s binary code, the language computers use to talk to themselves and to talk with each other.  There are only two characters, which feels way unwieldy to us meatbags, but it works great for a silicon-based consciousness.  What you may not realize is there’s a message in that pile of digits, sent from my computer’s brain to yours.  (If you want to know what it says yourself, just copy and paste it into an online translator.)

In fact, this whole post is in code.  I’m using a 26-character code here, give-or take, plus ten numerals and a few more marks for punctuation.  What’s more, I’m using that visual alphabet code to represent an aural code which consists of some 44 sounds, (more precisely, phonemes) grouped together in words, sentences, paragraphs, and trashy novels.  Most all of us use this kind of code to convey ideas, which in turn some might argue are yet another code that our brains use for manipulating information about the physical world.

Now here’s the thing: As a writer, I’m really a coder.  So are we all.  And painters are coders, too, with images.  Dancers are coders in yet another language, much less precise.  We’re all coding all day long, in our minds, in our words, in our art.

Does that sound cold and technical?  I don’t mean to be harsh.  I’m all for the elegance in a well-done poem.  There is meaning in just the beauty of a fine dance.  Even computer code can be beautiful; have you ever heard programmers talk about it?

I’m more about providing another perspective.  Seeing all of this language and “writing” stuff as code is to see our work without all the lace and fluff.  Yes, even the finest literature is just words and letters.  They’re just conveying ideas.  The ideas are the important thing.

It’s good to have perspective on the code.  When you’re all tied up in the letters on the page, or the paint on the canvas, it does the soul good to step back and remind yourself that it’s all just symbols and sounds.  Get friendly with it on a personal level.  Take a couple of vowels out for a beer and notice how they behave when they’re kicking back.  You might be surprised.  Strike up a pickup game with some loose punctuation.  It’s all good.  The more comfortable we are together the better it’s going to be for the art.

YOUR CHALLENGE:  Use a code (the Roman alphabet and English language will work just fine) to make something that breaks the rules entirely.  Words with no meaning.  Punctuation with no reason.  Crumple the code like a spent piece of paper.  Play with it for a while.  Show it who’s boss.  Let go of the need to make art with it.  Just revel in your freedom from the code.  See how that feels.

And send me a sample.  You know I love it when artists break the rules.

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2 responses to “Cracking the Code

  1. I for one can say that you’ve succeeded in providing another perspective to writing. All forms of communication are codes of sorts, and I find writing to be one of the most intricate forms of that; all the meaning that we want to convey, encompassed in just a handful of symbols! Coding can indeed be beautiful.

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