Why Should We Code? Should we?

My opinion is that we should learn to code. Why? Because the ability of thinking about how certain problems are/can be solved via programming is invaluable skill- without it, you aren’t able to discern what is and isn’t possible. An analogy used in Kirschenbaum’s Hello World article that encapsulates this concept is this: “the exercise of thinking through what it takes to model a snowball in a believable fashion goes a long way toward capturing the appeal of what I mean by programming as world-making”. For example, a historian may want to search through a series of documents for a specific keyword, maybe a person’s name relevant to their research, but think that a task like this is too computationally expensive. If the historian knew how to iteratively read through text files iteratively and use regular expressions to find the person’s name, they would understand that their task is entirely plausible.

My time at Carleton has been enriched with coding experiences; I first learned to code in Python during my first-year Winter term and since have worked through the entire CS major (minus my comps project and CS 208). Through my course load, I’ve gained a strong perspective as to what problems are computationally possible (CS 254 directly addresses this question). These skills have made my experience with the digital humanities much more enjoyable as I am able to think about how boundaries in DH can be pushed while still being computationally possible.

For example, one DH boundary I flirted with last Spring was that of computational poetry mediated on social media. I made a twitter bot (@RemixTulips) that replies with arbitrarily compiled lines from the poem tweeted by another bot (@RefinedTulips) which tweets poems from E.E. CummingsTulips & Chimneys anthology.

Tulips & Chimneys (Remix) twitter bot.

Here is a sample regular expression JSON block (the advanced JavaScript tutorial talks about this) that could be used to construct a twitter bot:

"origin": ["this could be a tweet", "this is #alternatives# tweet", "#completely different#"],
"alternatives" : ["an example", "a different", "another", "a possible", "a generated", "your next"],
"completely different" : ["and now for something completely different", "so long and thanks for all the fish", "or, maybe, #alternatives# badger"]
} <\pre>


One Comment

  1. I agree that learning to think logically is one of the greatest parts about learning to code.

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