Commit 23b1ec60 authored by Geoff Cox's avatar Geoff Cox

Update Readme.md

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It has become commonplace to include programming in education programmes at all levels and across a range of disciplines. Yet this still remains relatively uncommon in the arts and humanities, in subjects where learning to program does not relate explicitly to career aspirations. This raises questions about what gets included or not in curricula, and why this may be the case, and what kinds of knowledge and skills are considered necessary for some and not others. Certain forms of privilege is clearly affirmed in these choices. For instance, and in very general terms (of cultural studies), *high culture* related to art and philosophy has long been the domain of university-educated (wealthy, white) people over the *low culture* of ordinary people and everyday life. Both an expression of high and low culture, programming cuts across this in interesting ways as both an exclusive and specialised practice for sure but also one rooted in the acquisition of skills with applied real-world use in both work and play. Access to the skills remains an issue all the same.
We might usefully characterise this in terms of literacy -- traditionally applied to the skills of reading and writing -- to further include the reading and writing of code. Indeed coding is often referred to as "the literacy of today", and as the 21st century skill "we must learn to master [sic]".<sup>[1](#myfootnote1)</sup> Argubly, knowing some basic coding skills will not only enhance the possibility of future employability but also allow for a better understanding of how things (codes) are *encoded* and *decoded* more widely in culture.<sup>[2](#myfootnote2)</sup> Further echoing cultural studies, and its foundations in an expanded notion of literacy to include aspects of ordinary culture, Annette Vee's book *Coding Literacy* is an attempt to shift our focus from skill to wider social relations. As she puts it, "Seeing programming in light of the historical, social, and conceptual contexts of literary helps us to understand computer programming as an important phenomenon of communication, not simply as another new skill or technology."<sup>[3](#myfootnote3)</sup>
We might usefully characterise this in terms of literacy -- traditionally applied to the skills of reading and writing -- to further include the reading and writing of code. Indeed coding is often referred to as "the literacy of today", and as the 21st century skill "we must learn to master [sic]".<sup>[1](#myfootnote1)</sup> Argubly, knowing some basic coding skills will not only enhance the possibility of future employability but also allow for a better understanding of how things (codes) are *encoded* and *decoded* more widely in culture.<sup>[2](#myfootnote2)</sup> Further echoing cultural studies, and its foundations in an expanded notion of literacy to include aspects of ordinary culture, Annette Vee's book *Coding Literacy* from 2017 is an attempt to shift our focus from technical skill to wider social relations. As she puts it, "Seeing programming in light of the historical, social, and conceptual contexts of literary helps us to understand computer programming as an important phenomenon of communication, not simply as another new skill or technology."<sup>[3](#myfootnote3)</sup>
So, what are the implications of coding framed in terms of literacy, and for whom does this apply? In her book, Vee weaves together parallel histories of writing and coding to compare and trace what is meant broadly by literacy, and how to understand the rise of computing and the cultural discourse around the importance of code and coding. Indeed, it is common to discuss writing and coding together, text and code in parallel, especially in the fields of electronic literature, digital humanities and software studies.<sup>[4](#myfootnote4)</sup> (This parallel is also something we will develop in more detail in Chapter 7, "Vocable Code".)
As with our earlier claim about an expanded coding literacy by reading and using this book, we take one of Vee's arguments for coding literacy, which is to learn new ways to think, and that literacy no longer enough for just "reading for comprehension", but also "reading for technical thought as well as writing with complex structures and ideas".<sup>[5](#myfootnote5)</sup> Such a compelling argument for literacy, however, is not only for individual but also concerning wider cultural and society levels in which one can create and make changes. This will lead to a different way of coding practice beyond specialized discplines like Computer Science and Engineering, the so-called 'STEM' curriculum and approaches. Although Vee's book is not a programming book and does not address the question of how to program, the book is very rich in terms of unpacking the notion of literacy from a historical and comparative manner.
So, what are the implications of coding framed in terms of literacy, and for whom does this apply? In her book, Vee weaves together parallel histories of writing and coding to compare and trace what is meant broadly by literacy, and how to understand the rise of computing and the cultural discourse around the importance of code and coding. Indeed, it is common to discuss writing and coding together, text and code in parallel, especially in the fields of electronic literature, digital humanities and software studies.<sup>[4](#myfootnote4)</sup> (This parallel is also something we will develop in more detail in Chapter 7, "Vocable Code".) It applies to all of us. We hope that something of this expanded coding literacy is facilitated by reading and using this book, and we take inspiration from Vee's arguments for coding literacy, that it is no longer just "reading for comprehension" but also "reading for technical thought as well as writing with complex structures and ideas".<sup>[5](#myfootnote5)</sup> It is not simply a new way to read and write but to think as well.
In 2016, Nick Montfort, a poet and professor of digital media at MIT, published *Exploratory Programming for Arts and humanities*, a hands-on approach to programming. In the appendix of his book, he outlines three key reasons to answer the question "Why Program?", which is also the chapter title <sup>[6](#myfootnote6)</sup>. This includes learning to program allows us to think in new ways by bringing different methods and perspectives to raise new questions. Secondly, programming offers us a better understanding of culture and media systems. Consequently, we can learn to develop better, or better analysis of, cultural systems. Last but not the least, programming can help us improving society by means of creating, designing and discovering programs. We are very much agreeing on Montfort's thinking, but at the same time we see this as a possibility to opening up how we might work, and think with programming alternatively and in multiplicities, while it is still an underexplored research area especially responding to current demands of bringing programming into arts and humanities.
Such a compelling argument for literacy as this is not only for the benefit of individuals but also for the potential of wider cultural and social action, helping to drag coding out of its technicist silo. instrumentalised and functionary ...
This will lead to a different way of coding practice beyond specialized discplines like Computer Science and Engineering, the so-called 'STEM' curriculum and approaches.
Although Vee's book is not a programming book and does not address the question of how to program, the book is very rich in terms of unpacking the notion of literacy from a historical perspective. In 2016, Nick Montfort, a poet and professor of digital media at MIT, published *Exploratory Programming for Arts and humanities*, a hands-on approach to programming. In the appendix of his book, he outlines three key reasons to answer the question "Why Program?", which is also the chapter title.<sup>[6](#myfootnote6)</sup> This includes learning to program allows us to think in new ways by bringing different methods and perspectives to raise new questions. Secondly, programming offers us a better understanding of culture and media systems. Consequently, we can learn to develop better, or better analysis of, cultural systems. Last but not the least, programming can help us improving society by means of creating, designing and discovering programs. We are very much agreeing on Montfort's thinking, but at the same time we see this as a possibility to opening up how we might work, and think with programming alternatively and in multiplicities, while it is still an underexplored research area especially responding to current demands of bringing programming into arts and humanities.
As the first chapter of this book, we think that it is important to reflecting on why do we need to learn programming, which is also a way to set the scene and sustain our motivation to learn persistently. Knowing the fact that not all new learners would like to be a creative coder or professional programmer, we would then also address on code as means to work computationally, to think conceptually on wider cultural issues as well as to raise questions critically. As such, engaging with programming provides a way to creating changes in techno-cultural systems (which we have also discussed in the Preface). By understanding from many others especially our students who begin with our course without any programming experience, learning to code is a deep learning process with enjoyment and achivement but also comes with frustration in most of the times, specially there are new perspectives, syntaxes and structure to explore and experiment at the first place. It may not come naturally but takes time to familiar with computational thinking through structured logics and precise procedures.
//////On one level, the choice is simple: to program or be programmed.[Note: See Douglas Rushkoff's *Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commandments for a Digital Age*, OR books, 2010.]
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<a name="myfootnote3">3</a>: Annette Vee, *Coding Literacy: How computer programing is changing writing* (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2017, 4). Beyond coding literacy, we can also observe other kinds of literacy in mainstream media, policy making and academic discourses, such as procedural, data and digital literacy. See Ian Bogost, "Procedural Literacy: Problem Solving with Programming, Systems, & Play", *The Journal of Media Literacy*, vol. 52, no. 1-2, 2015; Michael Mateas, "Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner", *On the Horizon. Special issue. Future of Games, Simulations and Interactive Media in Learning Contexts*, vol. 13, no. 1, 2005; Annette N. Markham, “Taking Data Literacy to the Streets: Critical Pedagogy in the Public Sphere.” *Qualitative Inquiry* (August 2019). doi:10.1177/1077800419859024; Teressa Umali, "Exclusive: Promoting Digital Literacy in the Philippine Education System, *OpenGov Asia*, web, available at: https://www.opengovasia.com/promoting-digital-literacy-in-the-philippine-education-system/.
<a name="myfootnote4">4</a>: John Cayley, The code is not the text unless it is the text, 2002 electronic book review, available at http://electronicbookreview.com/essay/the-code-is-not-the-text-unless-it-is-the-text/, see also Katherine Hayles, *Writing Machines* (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002)
<a name="myfootnote4">4</a>: John Cayley, The code is not the text unless it is the text, 2002 electronic book review, available at http://electronicbookreview.com/essay/the-code-is-not-the-text-unless-it-is-the-text/, see also Katherine Hayles, *Writing Machines* (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002).
<a name="myfootnote5">5</a>: Vee, *Coding Literacy: How computer programing is changing writing*, 45-58.
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