Why Humanities Students Have To Learn Coding

Humanities is not a STEM subject, and is actually considered as a subject far from STEM. However, as technology has started to develop, people working in the subject of humanities started to implement computers to develop their ideas and studies. After all, there is a Digital Humanities department in our school! After reading the two articles, each explaining why humanities students should and should not learn coding, I got convinced that humanities students should all learn coding.

a kind of world-making, requiring one to specify the behaviors of an object or a system from the ground up

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum. Chronicle Review, May 23, 2010, “Hello Worlds (why humanities students should learn to program)” https://mkirschenbaum.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/hello-worlds/

The quote above refers to what programming is. Just like Kirschenbaum says, coding is not just the action of building a program or website. It is understanding how an object works, and considering the steps of a system, whether or not it is a computer program or an offline bingo game.

During the first lesson of our school’s Introduction to Computer Science class, the students learn how to build an algorithm for a simple program. An algorithm refers to the detailed steps of how the program works. Surprisingly, these concepts are also parts of coding.

Prior to this class, I have learned several programming languages. This is my first time learning HTML, CSS, and javascript, but I have experience with python, java, and some C language. Coding has always been enjoyable for me because it was more than building a program, but involves the process of logically understanding how everything works.

<p>Are you:</p>
<p><input type="radio" name="areyou" value="male"> Male</p>
<p><input type="radio" name="areyou" value="female"> Female</p>

This block of code, which I learned in the HTML Beginner tutorial, when compiled, creates the following onto the website. While going through the tutorial, I kept asking myself the question “why?”. Why is the command to make a paragraph <p> in HTML? Is it because the word paragraph starts with the alphabet p? I learned as I asked the most basic questions and tried to understand the programming language, rather than only focusing on just building a simple website.

Technology is rapidly developing and more and more people are getting used to the smart devices. These devices are used in various subjects, and more and more researchers use computers to dive into their studies more deeply. Using those programs and devices even without understanding how they work would definitely decrease the amount of knowledge they receive from using technology. Remember, coding is not just typing in code onto your computer screen. It is also about understanding the process of how it works, and therefore, humanities students should also consider learning coding, to boost their understanding.



  1. Sunny, I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I am particularly struck by your thoughtfulness as you questioned the most “basic” questions while programming, such as: Why does the command to make a separate paragraph

    ? Likely it is because “paragraph” starts with “p”; and that certainly touches upon how English has almost become a necessary language to know in order to keep up with the times. I’m not sure how I feel about this (e.g. learning English is more accessible to certain populations than others, and if English becomes the default language of international collaboration then that inherently gate-keeps). You’ve certainly got me thinking about these things, as well!

  2. I agree that coding can prompt investigation and understanding. However, after people learn their native language, many do not revisit the structure and basic composition of that language. It is taken for granted, similarly to how the structure and format of websites are taken for granted. Both can be helpful in deepening the understanding of the foundation, but they are not needed to engage with language or digital humanities.

  3. Touching on a similar topic to Grace, this post brings up something I have been thinking about a lot lately, which is that languages seem entirely to be written in English. I would suppose this to be hard for people who do not speak English — even with it in mind that coding is a separate “language”, it is certainly an advantage to know what, for example, strong might mean, rather than simply having to memorize it. I wonder if there are means of increasing accessibility within programming languages, or if there are programming languages that are actually written with a different base language in mind?

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