Designed as Designer

At OOPSLA 2007 in Montréal, Fred Brooks gave a keynote in which he argued that “conceptual integrity...dictates that [a good] design must proceed from one mind, or from a small number of agreeing resonant minds.” He supported this argument by pointing out that art is not produced by collaborators but by geniuses, and that the Duomo in Florence is a good example of that. As a poet, I was struck immediately by the fact that the argument from art was pretty wrong. Over the months from December 2007 until October 2008, I worked on an essay and presentation that explored my misgivings. Throughout, I was concerned about insulting one of our great computer scientists, and I hope it’s possible to separate the arguments from the man. Brooks’s argument boils down to the Romantic Genius theory of where art comes from, a theory with its greatest support from the end of the 18th century through most of the 19th. Its strongest support today seems to be among computer scientists and other inventors (and the recording industry) who believe in their own successes (too much).

I have two versions of the essay here: one is the one that was published in the Proceedings of OOPSLA 2008 where it was in the Essays track (and it’s available in the ACM Digital Library), and the expanded version which has more of the dreaded poetry argument as well as some others that proved too daunting for the program committee.

Designed as Designer, published essay [pdf]

Designed as Designer, expanded version [pdf]