Computer science, as Kirschenbaum describes, can be understood as a world-building process using the tools provided. He claims “programming was a unique and startling way of looking at the world; why it was, in fact, a kind of world-making, requiring one to specify the behaviors of an object or a system from the ground up.” A good example is object-oriented coding. The following two lines of code are a creation of a variable Tom.
var tom = new Person("tom"); tom.say("Hello");
These two lines of code would output:
tom says "Hello"
These two lines have a lot of thought behind them. The Person object is defined and created by the coder, down to how a new instance of Person is constructed. The fact that we can call a “say” command on tom might seem intuitive but this is because the coder designed it that way from nothing. Object-oriented coding required a lot of contemplation and forward-thinking about how what you’re doing can aid the rest of your work.
His description of Computer science makes it far more relevant to the humanities field and gives Computer Sciences a less technical connotation, which is good because the process of learning to code is much more than learning the technicalities of loops and syntax. The thought process behind coding can be very useful in the humanities. For example, when Kirschenbaum says ” I believe proficiency in a computer language can fulfill many of the same functions — accessibility, self-reliance, heightened critical awareness — as knowledge of a traditional foreign language,” he’s describing aspects of CS that go beyond the technical stuff. For these reasons, it’s in digital humanities students’ best interest to learn to code, so they can become stronger analyzers and critics when dealing with code.
Donahue’s concerns are valid, and I agree that knowing how to code isn’t necessary to participate in the computer sciences. He claims that computer sciences deal with the same issues humanists do except they do it in the language of “technical jargon.” This may technically be true, but Donahue is leaving out the interdisciplinary advantage of approaching tasks with the knowledge of coding. One will have a harder time translating certain ideas without any coding experience. Kirschenbaum depicts the advantages of knowing to code by comparing it to language: “Knowledge of a foreign language is desirable so that a scholar does not have to rely exclusively on existing translations” Overall, Donahue is correct in saying learning to code shouldn’t be a precondition to engaging in conversation in computer sciences and digital humanities. The problem is that Kirschenbaum isn’t explicitly saying that, only suggesting that digital humanists would reap many benefits when they are able to bring the coder’s mindset and skills into their work.
My Personal Coding Experience & The Tutorials I did