A Spectrum of Symbolisms

There are, ostensibly, two worlds — one of Nerds, and the other of Artists. The latter is noticeably hipper than the former, in general, ceteris paribus.

I have always been comfortable in both worlds. Honestly, I have. I can geek out with the best of them, talking at at least an average level of technical arcana, if not being resoundingly confident in my abstruseness. At the same time, I also empathize with the glory and the agony of most artistic souls.

One of my personal theses is that these two worlds can be bridged. At the root of my comfort at either end of this dichotomy, and also underlying my attempts to bridge these worlds, is the fact that at heart, every Tech Nerd is also an Artist. What is more, as Technology becomes more and more a lynchpin in the production of Art, the reverse is becoming true, as well.

To an audience, the work products of these two categories of creative beings, seem very different. This illusion exists because traditionally, Artists have been those that have catered to more of our senses, while Tech Nerds, or just Nerds, for short, are seen to deal solely in the beauty of the underlying ideas. The idea that therefore, these two categories lie at opposite ends of a spectrum of symbol-making, is almost antiquated now, as quaint as the idea that each one of us is either a Left Brained rationalist, or a Right Brained intuiter.

In reality, there is a seamless progression from an Artist of the Senses — the dancer, the cook, the painter — to the Artist of Abstract Ideas — the philosopher and the mathematician — with the Artist of Natural Language — the writer, the poet, the orator — existing somewhere in the middle. We, the Audience, react differently to all of them, but they have a more affectionately fraternal bond via a shared vocabulary of passions, than we can imagine.

Engineers are filled with a need for “creative expression,” as much as “proper” artists are, but few of them would thus articulate their motives. Engineers talk of wanting to “make things,” which is “creativity” too. The fruits of their labor seem, however, less “expressive” because a tool or program or system carries a finality that seemingly lies outside the personality of its creator. A car is only that thing that provides transport. A pot is only that thing which contains a plant. The engineer’s and the technician’s products are defined not by the creator but by the owner. Its form appears to be dictated by the user and by immutable laws of Physics, rather than by the personal philosophies of the its maker.

However, we must see that the functionality of an engineer’s creation does not emanate entirely from our desires. The engineer creates a new reality by virtue of having invented something. If that reality had not existed, we might not even have had the desires that we now deceive ourselves into thinking were the true genesis of that product. The needs that this new product seems to satisfy were in some sense called into being by the product itself having been invented. And the Engineer invented it because she wished to, rather than in response to our desires.

In this respect, the Enginee, or Nerd, is behaving no differently, and with no less independence and expressiveness, than an Artist. In fact, as our lives become more luxurious, and are serviced by technology in more and more mundane aspects, the aesthetics of techical design become as much a source of sensual joy as traditionally, the Arts have been. A well-designed ATM machine becomes something akin to walking into a gallery of artfully executed paintings, or watching a particularly good theater performance.

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