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Software Art: Text


  • Pierre Depaz
  • Michael Ang


Although computers only appeared a few decades ago, automation, repetition and process are concepts that have been floating around artists’ minds for almost a century. As machines enabled us to operate on a different scale, they escaped the domain of the purely functional and started to be used, and understood, by artists. The result has been the emergence of code-based art, a relatively new field in the rich tradition of arts history that today acts as an accessible new medium in the practice of visual artists, sculptors, musicians and performers. Software Art: Text is an introduction to the history, theory and practice of computer-aided artistic endeavours in the field of prose and poetry. This class will be focused on the appearance and role of computers as a new way for artists to write and read both programming and natural languages. While elaborating and discussing concepts and paradigms specific to computing platforms, such as recomposition, stochastic writing, found material and interaction, students will be encouraged to explore their own artistic practice through the exclusive use of their computers, by writing their own programs. Software Art: Text is a complement to Software Art: Image, a 7-week course on the use of software from the perspective of the visual arts.

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop an understanding of process-based artistic practice.
  • Understand the history and impact of software on visual arts and culture
  • Develop their own artistic voice through writing software
  • Become comfortable to present and discuss software-based artworks
  • Develop a familiarity in creating visual works with Python and Bash
  • Gain a greater understanding of the place of the written word in a world immersed in computation.

Topic Outlines

  • Cut/Paste
  • Grammars and chains
  • Interactivity and conversations
  • Hypertext
  • Source codes


  • Virtual Muse: An Experiment in Computer Poetry, C. O. Hartman, Chap. 1.
  • On Doubt, V. Flússer, Univocal Publishing, 2014, Chap 3
  • Linguistics for non-linguists, F. Parker, K. Riley, College Hill Press, 2005. Chap 4.
  • N-grams and Markov chains, A. Parrish,
  • Markov chains explained visually, V. Powell,
  • ELIZA -A Computer Program For The Study Of Natural Language Communication Between Man and Machine, J. Weizenbaum, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 9, 1966
  • Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, E. Aarseth.
  • Speaking Code, G. Cox. and A. McLean, MIT Press, 2012.
  • {Code Poems}, ed. Ishaac Bertram

Grading Rubric

No grading rubric.


  • Reading Readings will include book chapters, research papers and articles from art history, art philosophy and software studies fields. These readings will introduce the students to the history of computers as a tool to produce fiction, its impact on how we look at the written word, as well as an overview of the field’s main figures.
  • Participating Since the class will be focused on critical outlooks on artworks as well as discussion of both their execution and underlying concepts, participation by the students contributes to 15% of the final grade. Participation includes (a) expressing one’s own perspective on the readings, (b) discussing classmates’ perspectives on the readings, (c) offering critical and respectful feedback on classmates’ work, (d) sharing additional content that can be relevant to the topics discussed in class. - 15%
  • Drafting Students will be encouraged to produce computer-generated texts by posting weekly on a public blog. These weekly assignments will explore a particular technique, concept, or artist who will have been discussed that week in class. Each draft or series of drafts will be accompanied by a short write-up explaining the creative process of that exploration (what does the program do? why? what is the intended aesthetic effect?). - 15%
  • Coding The main assignments of the class will be two series of work, revolving around two concepts, Assemblage and Fiction. Each student will be required to produce one or several works that demonstrate both (a) technical skill, (b) aesthetic judgement and (c) critical knowledge, which will then be presented and critiqued in class. The final project will follow those same requirements, but will not have a pre-defined prompt. - 15% + 15% + 20%
  • Writing Each of the main assignments will be accompanied by a 500 word statement providing a theoretical context to the production of the work, in order to introduce students to not only art creation but also to art criticism and allow them to not only produce, but communicate. These statements will have to touch on (a) the conceptual background for the work, (b) the reasons for its formal qualities as well as (c) the evolution of the work over time. - 5% + 5% + 10%


"One thing that foreigners, computers and poets have in common is that they make unexpected linguistic associations." -- Jasia Reichardt

Course Resources

Course wiki

Including schedule, assignments and resources
Uploaded by Pierre Depaz on 2023-07-03