Computing lecturer Joseph Walton-Rivers talks coding and creativity

26 March 2024

Games student smiling and working on artwork on a computer screen.
Games Academy student smiling working

In this article, Computing lecturer Joseph Walton-Rivers shares his thoughts and expertise on coding as a creative discipline. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about coding or programming is that it is not a creative discipline. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Although not easily recognised as a practice aligned with the ‘arts’, in that there is rarely a visual or audio component, you need to look beneath the surface to see the creativity in code and understand that creativity is intrinsic to the programming process.  

Creativity as a mindset 

Good coding, like good writing, can’t be done by rote.  

There’s a world of difference between jotting down a shopping list and penning an award-winning novel. While it doesn't take much to note down, ‘bread, milk, butter and beans’, to write something that might get stocked by Waterstones’ requires a different approach. And that’s exactly the case for programming too. 

Code can be viewed as a medium, just like any other that’s used to produce creative work. People unfamiliar with the tools of coding see don’t realise that code is a language. In the same way that a writer communicates their thoughts, so do we, but our medium is Python or C#, rather than English. 

As flair, imagination and ingenuity are required to produce compelling prose, so they’re also needed to make elegant, effective code and good digital experiences. 

If you’re just going to create login pages, then sure, coding’s boring. But if you’re going for a masterpiece, you’re going to need to get creative.  

The creativity of problem-solving 

At the heart of programming is problem solving, and what’s more creative than tackling a challenge to generate new ideas and novel solutions through your own imagination and skill? 

Good programming takes a creative approach, questioning and interrogating the challenge, adopting a process of exploration, careful consideration and resourceful decision-making. 

Not only that, but good programming also demands creative vision. The ability to map out a strategic roadmap that provides clarity and coherence, the capacity for responsiveness and flexibility. 

The joy of code 

Of course, not all coding is for a business purpose – it can be fun, too. 

There are entire disciplines that are playful creative expressions of our expertise. Mischievousness, humour and eccentricity can be expressed in code and producing this work is akin to drawing or writing recreationally. 

From Perl poetry, to Esolangs, Hackathons to Game Jams, our output and our community demonstrate just how creative code can be. 

Coding at a creative university 

Studying a computing subject at a creative arts institution might seem counter-intuitive at first, but at Falmouth University’s Games Academy, surrounded by passionate likeminded people, there’s the opportunity not only to grow as a talented programmer, but to be recognised and respected as a creative too. 

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