Rewriting the Bible in Code: thoughts on Language, Richness and Metadata
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
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Codifying stories

What would happen if literature is represented in code? As they say, “Code is poetry”. So thinking on this line of thought got a couple of friends talking about this weird topic over Sashimi. The discussions spanned across whether code can actually represent literature and what effects of it would be.

Code is not literature

Even though we entertain the idea that code is poetry, it certainly isn’t. Ask a coder have they read the source code of angular.js or the latest *cool.js* library, you won’t be surprised to know that nobody ever read them. Code is an idea; an abstraction; a model. It’s used to understand representations and process functions to achieve certain objectives. As Peter Seibel states

Rather, interesting pieces of code are specimens and we are naturalists. So instead of trying to pick out a piece of code and reading it and then discussing it like a bunch of Comp Lit. grad students, I think a better model is for one of us to play the role of a 19th century naturalist returning from a trip to some exotic island to present to the local scientific society a discussion of the crazy beetles they found: “Look at the antenna on this monster! They look incredibly ungainly but the male of the species can use these to kill small frogs in whose carcass the females lay their eggs.” — Peter Seibel

Literature in code

So it begs the question, “Can Shakespeare's’ Hamlet proses or Rupert Kipling poem ‘If’ represented in code?”. Shamelessly, I decided to write ‘If’ in JavaScript.

As you can see, it requires some “refactoring”. But the idea of writing literature in code is an entertaining thought.

Loosing Meta

One of the criticizing points Yudhanjaya Wijeratne brought forward was that Metadata or the rich information of literature is lost when it is represented in code. Literature is meant to provide more information, to draw upon ideas and paint a majestic picture in our minds. Code on the other hand- details the instructions on how to convert that picture into numbers and power up circuits to light up a picture on a Liquid Crystal Display.

Meta is a distraction, meta is unnecessary, meta is chaos, meta is blasphemy!
Good code is concise, good code is readable and good code is efficient.

We applaud the man who can write a 500 line code in 50 lines by cutting down the richness (not formatting). We applaud the man who uses same variable names consistently rather than gunning through the thesaurus. And above all, we appreciate code that is simple.

Literature isn’t about simpleness. It’s about sophistry. It’s about presenting ideas with details. With literature — one can absorb the atmosphere. With code — one can understand the problem.

Code is Literature (Paradox)

What’s interesting without a paradox. Converting existing literature to code removed the humanity, and emotions out of it. But code, in itself can represent powerful ideas. Ideas so powerful — it can operate a game in an iPhone to flying Rockets to space and landing on the moon.

I decided to write a poem in code (an original) to test out this hypothesis.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.