[Humanist] 23.103 programming: the fear of it

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jun 24 09:29:54 CEST 2009


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 103.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
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        Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2009 08:03:58 -0500
        From: Stephen Ramsay <sramsay.unl at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.101 programming: the fear of it
        In-Reply-To: <20090623051451.7AB461ED55 at woodward.joyent.us>


On Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 12:14 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
> I was an almost 4.0 undergrad student, Willard -- got As in math (up
> to first year calculus), the sciences, English, statistics, etc.
> Received one grade of B+ in four years of college.  I'm not afraid of
> programming.  It's just drudge work.  Mental digging.  There's some
> gratification to seeing an end product working well, but the sheer
> boredom leading up to that end product isn't worth it.
>
> I understand that those who love writing lines of code can see
> "poetic" qualities (broadly defined -- really, I suspect all that's
> really being referred to here is simplicity) in writing code, but this
> is all hidden to everyone but programmers checking the code.  All that
> matters, really, is the functionality of the end product.  An
> awkwardly written code supporting a stable system is more important
> than a poetically written code that crashes.

As a fellow genius, I couldn't agree more.  I have always been outstanding
at everything I've ever done.  I did get one B+ (in some gut course called
"logical reasoning") but that's really it.

But the object of my disdain is really English literature.  It's drudge
work.  Mere mental digging.  There's some gratification to finally getting
the "information" from the book, but the sheer boredom leading up to that
end point -- the extremely roundabout way in which most authors get to the
point . . .  It's just not worth it.

I understand that those who love literature see "poetic" qualities (broadly
defined -- really, I suspect all that's being referred to here is how easy
it all is to understand), but this is hidden to everyone but copy editors.
All that matters, really, is the information.  Bad writing that supports a
stable, unambiguous message is way more important that poetic language that
ends up being obscure.

So let me just close by saying that I couldn't agree more.  Fear has nothing
to do with the anti-intellectualism of our students.  It's just that . . .
well, it's all just so, you know . . . boring.

Steve

-- 
Stephen Ramsay
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Center for Digital Research in the Humanities
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
PGP Public Key ID: 0xA38D7B11
http://lenz.unl.edu/






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