Here's something I posted to Kuro5hin about art. It's a reply to an article that stated that programming isn't an art, mostly because aesthetics of code and other forms of art is different. He argued that programs are mostly just means to accomplish something, not end - as in tube of paint rather than painting. The article also posed question whether one can consider Windows 2000 art.
(Some typos and somewhat awkward expressions corrected since then =)
It's interesting that his topic was just brought up when I needed to defend the similiar arguments in newsgroups.
(Disclaimer: I'm a programmer and I also draw 1. I'm also a Sunday philosopher. =)
Do I consider a copy of Win2K to be art? Yes. What sort of art? I have previously called this "Egoistic, functionalistic, colossal and capitalistic".
[I had a node about this somewhere... I think.]
Egoistic in sense that modern programs need all attention they can get (Microsoft Says "We Have The Biggest Baddest Computers, You NEED Those Too"), Functionalistic in sense that they do what you ask but aren't too innovative (Microsoft, as usual, would have different sense of what "innovative" means in this context), Colossal in the sense that modern programs need insane amounts of space, and Capitalistic in sense that it was only made to bring profit to Microsoft, they didn't make it in slightest for altruistic purposes. (I don't consider capitalism to be an entirely bad idea, but if the only reason why people make art is that they would need to make money out of it is questionable.)
Personally, I believe all products of human creativity can be considered art, regardless of "motives" or "quality" of the creations.
You make a valid point of code being means and not an end. However... the means must exist for the end to exist. Someone needed to produce that tube of paint! Someone needed to design the tube, someone needed to make the machine that produced the tube!
Art is a chain. There was the first Creator (for me that would be God, for some others it'd be something weirder or less easily explainable) that created one means, which in turn lead to creation of other means.
Where does that tube of paint come from? The Creator created us this world with the aluminium ore (from which the tube was produced) and the various oils and substances (from which the paint was produced). Is the Nature "art"? Many people wouldn't use the word to describe it, but people often amaze the beauty of the nature and the utter complexity and subtlety of our universe.
Okay, suppose you have now a paint tube, brushes and other things - you have produced a work of art using the paint. In other words, you have a piece of artwork. An "end", as you said. But the story of the artwork will not end when it's finished. Products of visual arts ends up hanging in galleries and the galleries make postcards with pictures of famous paintings; Pictures of the artwork end up in art books, get scanned to the online art galleries, and sooner or later some young artist will probably even copy the artwork themselves when practising - or get inspiration out of this same artwork for another artwork!
When does it "end"? When does it end?
Then, take Linux. Linux started on Minix, and then people started maintaining Linux on Linux. Linux became self-contained: Older version of Linux became the means of producing a newer version of Linux, which in turn will become a means for producing another version of Linux. Someone fashioned the tool; Then someone used the tool to fashion a better tool, and the better tool to fashion even better tools. And a lot of creativity went on design of the better tool when using the old tool.
Art is a chain or cycle, not simply "means" and "end".
Then, another point: When it's code and when it's art? Which is more of "art", the process or the product? What's the difference?
I have a a picture of myself 2 out there. (It was clearly inspired by another work of art 3 by another artist 4...) If you're interested on hearing the details on how I made the picture, take a look at my story 5.
I took the picture as an example because it has code. The code is used as a part of work of visual art. I wanted to use this as a simple illustration. Code can be used to produce the stuff you call art. Does the word Script-FU mean anything to you? You write code. Code creates image. What about PoV-Ray? You write code. Code creates image.
This will nicely illustrates the following concept: Art is not just the end result, it's also the process as whole.
When people often speak of "art", they refer to pretty pictures - or, in general, the product of the art. They don't think of the intent. The reason why people don't understand the modern art is that they don't think about the process enough. They don't think why the artist thought the work of art should exist, and how they made the work of art.
I guess this is the same reason why you don't think programming is art. You just ask "okay, so, what it can do?" ... just like some others may look at some world-famous painting and say "cool."
To expand/elaborate on Edison's famous quote about invention, I'd say 1% of the fun is in the end result. The remaining is in the process of creation.