Humanities students should learn to code. Programming is about building models and virtual realities. Scholars and students of the Humanities have created virtual realities in the form of literature for hundreds of years. In an article arguing that humanities students should learn to code, Matthew Kirschenbaum describes programming as “a kind of world-making” and says that “such an activity [is] connected to the long traditions of humanistic thought encountered in the classes devoted to [the humanities].”
Both Kirschenbaum and Evan Donahue (who argues against Kirschenbaum’s claim) point out that people outside of the fields of computer science have misconceptions of what programming is. There are many coding languages and the code is created by humans and for humans. It’s a language.
Coding is just a language. English is just a language. There are different types of computer sciences just like there are different types of humanities. Donahue argues that “learning to program should be no more and no less enabling than reading Derrida.”
In a reddit post in 2013, the user JBlitzen made a comment describing the connections they observed between programming and philosophy. The comment which can be read here, supports the idea that learning code is an important skill for people in the humanities to acquire.
Humanities students can use code to turn ideas into clear, simple instructions. This is done, as stated in the reddit comment, by “taking concepts and turning them into practical utility”.
For example, my idea was to put a cute picture of a sloth that linked to the wikipedia page about sloths. I had to break that idea down into steps and then write those steps in the form of html code.
So the idea
- Cute sloth picture linking to sloth wiki
- Find picture
- Obtain picture url
- Insert picture
- Find website
- Take website url
- Hyperlink website url
which turned into
<img src="http://s.hswstatic.com/gif/sloth-ig-2.jpg" />
The last point made in JBlitzens comment is that the world is changing. Any work that can be automated is fair game if it will improve cost efficiency. Students that develop an understanding of coding can understand technology better in order to both analyze and understand the present world and make accurate predictions about the future. Humanities students need to learn to code so they can work alongside computers instead of being replaced by computers.