Yesterday, I received final confirmation that the Museum of Modern Art in New York has selected my mash-ups twittervision.com and flickrvision.com for its 2008 exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind.
I'm certainly very flattered to be included and have never considered myself to be an artist. I didn't seek out MoMA on this. I am just very, very happy to have an opportunity to participate in a small way in the ongoing dialog about what technology means for humanity. Crap. Now I sound like an artist.
Incidentally, this means that twittervision.com and flickrvision.com are the first ever Ruby On Rails apps to be included in a major art exhibition. I already told DHH.
Anyway, at RailsConf Europe a few weeks ago, Dave Thomas' keynote speech emphasized the role of software designers as artists. He said, "treat your projects as though they are artworks, and sign your name to them." Or pretty close to it. I think this is incredibly valuable advice for software designers today.
We're past the days of using machines as amplifiers of our physical efforts. It's not enough to jam more features into code just so we can eliminate one more position on the assembly line. We're at a point where the machines can help amplify our imaginations.
Today, creativity and imagination (what some folks are calling the right brain) are becoming the key drivers of software and design. With imagination, we can see around the corners of today's most pressing challenges. While technical skill is certainly valuable, if it's applied to the wrong problems, it's wasted effort.
Creativity, imagination, and artistry help us identify the areas where we should put our efforts. They help us see things in new ways.
Everywhere I turn (perhaps partly because I am a Rubyist), I hear discussions of Domain Specific Languages, and of framing our problems in the right grammars.
This is hugely valuable because the creative part of our brain thinks in terms of semantics, grammars, and symbols. If we can't get the words right, our imaginations can't engage.
Everything stays stuck in the left side of our brains when we have to jump through hoops to please some particular language or development environment.
I hope you all will come out to see Design and the Elastic Mind when it opens at NYC MoMA, Feb 24 - May 12 2008. I'm not sure how we're going to present the sites but we're going to see if we can get some partners and sponsors involved to do something really beautiful.
And again, thanks to MoMA for the selection. And here's to creativity, imagination, and artistry as the next big thing in software design!