Thursday, April 19, 2012

Is it Art or is it Science?

When I write these blogs it is usually just me, my keyboard, and maybe a little Pandora radio in the background.  While I know that people will read my material, I never know who, where, or when our connection will be made.  So the challenge is to find a way for us to connect, not just through words, but through emotion and experience.  As the saying goes, over 90% of human communication is non-verbal so what I say must be able to transcend words and reach you in other ways.

This week marks what would have been the 41st birthday of the singer Selena.  She was murdered 17 years ago in 1995 right before she was to turn 24.  If you don't know who she is/was, I dare you to go out and download her single "I Could Fall In Love".  If the raw emotion, power, and feeling don't move you, then you're probably made of stone. 

The sad truth is that there are any number of artists that we lost too soon - Mozart, Elvis Pressley, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Buddy Holly, Gershwin, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, James Dean, Heath Ledger, Brad Nowell, Whitney Houston, Jimi Hendrix, and just recently Thomas Kincaid.  Yet, their works even today have a profound effect on us.  No matter how much time passes, the beauty and influence of what they created lives on and on and on. 

Many people mourn these artists as individuals, but I would posit that, like me, most mourners never knew any of them personally.  No,  whenever artists like these pass, what we all truly lament is the fact that a unique source of wonder and beauty has been forever removed from the world.  No matter the level of our grief, there is nothing that will ever bring back what is lost.

That is what separates art from science.  What defines "good" science is that it can be replicated, exactly, by anyone, given the availability of resources and time. Not so with art.  No matter how much money, time, or effort we expend we will never be able to replicate the works created by the artists who are no longer with us.  Art is special because it is unique, like a fingerprint, to the person who created it. 

What I'm about to say may seem odd to many a reader, but here it is.  All IT professionals are artists.  Yes, they use science and technology as their tools, but not a single one approaches their work in the same exact way.  While there are many examples that I could cite, the best one might be to look at the work of programmers.  In the creation of a software application, a programmer uses a combination of English language commands and, in some cases, graphical tools to create a finished product.  If you could open the code like the cover of a book and read it, you would find many parts unique to the person or people who created the application.  It could be the arrangement of words, the order of commands, the art for the graphical display, pretty much anything.  The fact is that every IT professional approaches their work in a unique way.  A way that no other person can exactly match or duplicate.  And that makes them artists.

So when you think about the people who work in IT and have a sense that they might be a little bit "different", or more "eccentric" than people in other departments, you are probably on to something.  The secret of the science behind the delivery and support of IT is simple:  it's all an art.

If you're an IT manager, appreciate each and every member of your team.  Because when they're gone, life will still continue (usually) but you'll never be able to duplicate exactly what each of them has done for you.

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