Distant Constructs

published: 2021-01-09, updated: 2021-01-12

In an interview with the Dr. Dobbs website, Alan Kay described computing as pop culture:

Kay: Well, I’m an old-fashioned guy. And I also happen to believe in history. The lack of interest, the disdain for history is what makes computing not-quite-a-field.

Binstock: You once referred to computing as pop culture.

Kay: It is. Complete pop culture. I’m not against pop culture. Developed music, for instance, needs a pop culture. There’s a tendency to over-develop. Brahms and Dvorak needed gypsy music badly by the end of the 19th century. The big problem with our culture is that it’s being dominated, because the electronic media we have is so much better suited for transmitting pop-culture content than it is for high-culture content

Kay: But pop culture holds a disdain for history. Pop culture is all about identity and feeling like you’re participating. It has nothing to do with cooperation, the past or the future — it’s living in the present.

This insightful comment has resonated with me and helped me understand the tenor of many different communities and publications, not just those linked to programming. In a similar vein, to quote Carlos Santana:

Jazz is an ocean. Rock’n’roll is a swimming pool.