Exploratory and Live, Programming and Coding

A Literature Study Comparing Perspectives on Liveness

Patrick Rein1, Stefan Ramson2, Jens Lincke3, Robert Hirschfeld4, and Tobias Pape5

The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 1, Article 1

Submission date: 2018-02-01
Publication date: 2018-07-23
DOI: https://doi.org/10.22152/programming-journal.org/2019/3/1
Full text: PDF


Various programming tools, languages, and environments give programmers the impression of changing a program while it is running. This experience of liveness has been discussed for over two decades and a broad spectrum of research on this topic exists. Amongst others, this work has been carried out in the communities around three major ideas which incorporate liveness as an important aspect: live programming, exploratory programming, and live coding.

While there have been publications on the focus of each particular community, the overall spectrum of liveness across these three communities has not been investigated yet. Thus, we want to delineate the variety of research on liveness. At the same time, we want to investigate overlaps and differences in the values and contributions between the three communities.

Therefore, we conducted a literature study with a sample of 212 publications on the terms retrieved from three major indexing services. On this sample, we conducted a thematic analysis regarding the following aspects: motivation for liveness, application domains, intended outcomes of running a system, and types of contributions. We also gathered bibliographic information such as related keywords and prominent publications.

Besides other characteristics the results show that the field of exploratory programming is mostly about technical designs and empirical studies on tools for general-purpose programming. In contrast, publications on live coding have the most variety in their motivations and methodologies with a majority being empirical studies with users. As expected, most publications on live coding are applied to performance art. Finally, research on live programming is mostly motivated by making programming more accessible and easier to understand, evaluating their tool designs through empirical studies with users.

In delineating the spectrum of work on liveness, we hope to make the individual communities more aware of the work of the others. Further, by giving an overview of the values and methods of the individual communities, we hope to provide researchers new to the field of liveness with an initial overview.

  1. patrick.rein@hpi.uni-potsdam.de, Hasso Plattner Institute, Germany

  2. stefan.ramson@hpi.de, Hasso Plattner Institute, Germany

  3. jens.lincke@hpi.uni-potsdam.de, Hasso Plattner Institute, University of Potsdam, Germany

  4. robert.hirschfeld@gmx.net, Hasso-Plattner-Institut (HPI), Germany

  5. tobias.pape@hpi.uni-potsdam.de, Hasso Plattner Institute, Germany