[Humanist] 23.106 programming: the fear of it

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jun 25 07:36:49 CEST 2009


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 106.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (16)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.103 programming: the fear of it

  [2]   From:    Mark Wolff <wolffm0 at hartwick.edu>                         (39)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.103 programming: the fear of it


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 09:20:22 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.103 programming: the fear of it
        In-Reply-To: <20090624072954.958B623ACD at woodward.joyent.us>

Funny, but without content, and essentially meaningless as a response
to my point, which was that it's possible for people to have -no-
interest in programming, the ability to do it, and not be motivated by
fear.  I don't blame math people if they don't enjoy reading poetry.
I see the value in programming and am reaping the benefits of it as I
type this email.

Actually writing it bores the hell out of me.

Very sorry you can't understand other points of view, and no, writing
good lines of code is not the same as writing a good poem.  To much of
it has really already been written.

Jim R

> 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



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 10:42:31 -0400
        From: Mark Wolff <wolffm0 at hartwick.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.103 programming: the fear of it
        In-Reply-To: <20090624072954.958B623ACD at woodward.joyent.us>

On Jun 24, 2009, at 3:29 AM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

>> 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.
>
> 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.

As much as I appreciate Steve's satirical comment (that was satire,  
right?), I think there is an important distinction between poetry and  
code that stems from textual ambiguity.  An interesting poem resists  
easy interpretation, but an interesting program has to at least  
provide instructions a machine can follow.  Computers do not like  
ambiguity.  What you do with the machine that follows the instructions  
can resist easy interpretation, but you don't need to be a programmer  
to do that.

There can be interesting code that does not execute on a machine:  it  
is interesting because it suggests a new way to do something.  The  
potentiality of code is interesting, but that's different than code  
itself.  Many people do not care about the potential of code (and  
should not have to):  show them functional code and then they'll talk  
to you.

Do we expect students of literature to be able to write poetry?  Why  
do we expect (or hope) they can write code?  Actually, I think  
students should learn both, because both involve disciplined  
thinking:  if you can write a sonnet, you can write a program.  Such  
practical skill makes you a better reader and user.

mw
--
Mark B. Wolff
Modern and Classical Languages
One Hartwick Drive
Hartwick College
Oneonta, NY  13820
(607) 431-4615

http://bumppo.hartwick.edu/~mark/





More information about the Humanist mailing list