[Humanist] 23.134 programming

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jul 6 11:03:22 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 134.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 09:18:08 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.130 programming
        In-Reply-To: <20090705071423.15E03654A at woodward.joyent.us>

Thanks for the response, John.  Redefining the terms of the discussion
does not invalidate my point, however.  I could simply rephrase my
statement to say that we do not think in one type of code (computer
code) but do think in another type of code (human language).  This is
a response you may have anticipated.

I tend to think in terms of a distinction between mathematics and
verbal languages, and see computer code as a hybrid that largely
follows math conventions.  We use mathematics to talk to other human
beings about physical interrelationships between material objects,
computer code to talk to a machine (a computer), and verbal language
to talk about everything else.  Computer code provides the interface
between the other two languages and a machine but does not provide the
content of the other two languages, and when it may do so, it is very
reliant upon these other two languages.

We can read coding tendencies and draw conclusions about the person
writing code, just like we can read complex mathematical equations and
do the same, or look at how a building is designed, or was physically
built, or how a transmission is repaired, and do the same.  That we
can make inferences from patterns of behavior in all these instances
does not mean that, say, the act of repairing a transmission is
inherently meaningful psychologically, all the more so since most of
the time when we watch someone fix a car, we don't make these
inferences.  I usually infer how annoying it is to repair cars, but
I'm probably just projecting onto others my own feelings.

Jim R

> "But the parallel you attempt to draw between coding and language on
> this point still doesn't work.  We don't think in code."
> First, all language is code; the images we produce (in mind or on canvas)
> are code, too. The reality is, we can't think except in code.

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