Let’s Talk about Python

Based on my confusion related to the recent assignment, I thought I would start a post that would shed some light on this topic and new realm of literary/coding controversy. In the reading related to the introduction of this coding experience, there were a couple of things that stood out to me. The statement that the higher level the code, the closer it is to natural language. I was wondering if any of you felt this way. We have happily and intensely emerged ourselves with two coding challenges in two separate interfaces.
Before I engaged in the python exercises, I was offended that code was not considered intellectual language or academia. I have dabbled in languages over the past 13 years and feel as if coding adds a level of understanding and respect to the digital world. More people should be exposed to this backend of the inter webs. The mention of Life on the Screen by Sherry Turkle reminds me of how I felt about the privacy of the guts of the computers when they first came out. When I read this book about a year ago, I was a bit angry that we weren’t allowed to peek into the backyard of most of that mastery. Now there are many ways to experience the structure and skeleton of any and all digital interfaces. The only thing that is missing is the ability to know what was going on in the mind of the person building it. For instance, the python tutorial and structure of it. If we compare the language and back story of code academy to the python tutorial that we did this week, what does it tell us. Why such different approaches, language, direction, tips, formats, etc. ? I understand that different people have different visions, but I’m wondering why they chose that certain vision for something that they love so much. Just something that I’ve been bouncing around in my noggin’ since I finished python.  I thought I would burden you with the pain of my intellectual struggle as well. I hope to open dialogue with all of you wonderful minds, in order to embrace my own struggle. Thanks


8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about Python”

  1. Great post, Tonya!

    For me, the “high level code” explanation was counter-intuitive to what I thought it meant. I used to think complicated, FBI/CIA kind of stuff was attached to “high level.” But the explanation made sense to me once I read it.

    I agree with what you said about the benefits of more people having a peek “behind the curtain” of how computers and the Internet work. People are more intimidated the more mysterious it all seems. If you demystify it and show them why things work the way they do, they’re less afraid to try. I remember a time when there seemed to be some exclusivity that came with being a “coder,” which may contribute to that attitude that coding isn’t considered intellectual language or academic.

    Your questions about why the visions differed between those who made the Python tutorials vs. those who made the HTML tutorials took me back to my undergrad literature classes. Those are exactly the kinds of questions we try to answer when we’re analyzing a piece of literature to discover not just what the authors are saying, but why they’re saying it, and why they’re saying it that way. That we can ask such questions about coding and lessons about coding makes it seem pretty intellectual and consistent with academia to me.

  2. Just going to throw my two cents out here … I’m pretty sure that this Python assignment (according to the website tutorial, rather than Dr. Schocket’s actual syllabus) was to allow beginners to view how Python works on the back-end. This is where Komodo Edit would be useful – it has an output screen so we can see actions taking place, whereas if we run that program in Python, it will often shut the screen and do the action we asked it – we did not ask it, of course, to bother us with back-end functions. But because Komodo Edit was super problematic (at least for me), Notepad was used – without an output screen. If we so chose, we could have put each command into a Python shell. But let’s face it – sometimes that just wasn’t practical.

    For me, the frustration of figuring out this Python assignment wasn’t the language itself, but two things: 1. how the tutorial site explained it, and 2. not being able to see what I’m doing. Codeacademy was wonderful in explaining things simply, concretely, in a logical order and with a same-screen viewer. I am an extremely visual learner, and this helped me tremendously to understand HTML. The tutorial used for the Python assignment, though, left me more confused than understanding, and having to switch between folders and programs and screens made it even more hard for me to keep up with myself.

    The visual power of programming languages is overwhelming. I can see why some would claim it’s not an intellectual field – it involves a lot more hands-on skill than we are used to seeing in academic thought-areas. But I think it should start being included, as well as taught as a method of language and research that may be of use to several other disciplines. Just because you DO something doesn’t mean it’s not intellectual.

    1. This is Sara Myser, by the way.
      I enjoyed seeing the results on Codecademy. And after experiencing the complexity of coding, I think it would be hard to argue that coding is not an intellectual process. Especially because there are so many variants of coding language.

    2. I agree 100%. The value of understanding these skills is great, even if I don’t think it’s directly applicable to the humanities, but the Python website was not helpful! I even had my brother, who’s a coder, look at it when I was stuck and he struggled because of the wording of the instructions. In comparison, Code Academy was much more user friendly. I’m not sure if it’s because of the usability of the Code Academy site compared to the Python, but I thought the HTML/CSS was just inputting existing strands of code to make things happen. While there’s a lot of intellectual value to it, it seemed more like an assembly line than writing, whereas the Python coding seemed like it required more understanding of how the code worked and how to build off one thing onto another.

  3. I agree: coding certainly has a place in the realm of the humanities. I thought this before I did any coding, and, now that I’ve done some, I am an even more ardent supporter. Creating, manipulating, and running code gave me a lot of insight into how all this “building” works. It does work much like a language, and language is powerful. When I ran my first “hello world” program in Text Wrangler, I experienced that proverbial “I’ve got tha powah” moment. I think that the implications of coding in the humanities are, frankly, nothing to sniff at.

    Although I am tempted by training to adopt a Barthesian approach that renders these program writers’ goals irrelevant, I do think that their goals may have had something to do with their audience. Those writing the wonderfully clear and user-friendly Codecademy program may have had their users’ interests in mind. I know that Codecademy is widely used by many novices who are just venturing into the digital world. It seems, on the other hand, that Turkel and Crymble were writing their instructions for a more specialized audience. These instructions seemed geared towards those in the humanities, whereas Codecademy was directed toward a more generalized user.

    Perhaps this had something to do with how they were written, but perhaps not. Either way this assignment was a most fascinating,frustrating, and ultimately rewarding experience. We will have more thoughts to come, to be sure.

  4. I understand the need and use for coding in DH related fields. However, the exercise did not do anything for me but frustrate me to the point I literally gave up. I reached out to classmates and they were super supportive and tried to help, but I literally just got so frustrated and confused I stopped working on it. Sorry to be very honest, and not to offend anyone and I hope I don’t but for me I am much more interested in assignments like the DH project evaluation which was much more helpful to me, and provided me with some insight and resources that I can actually use as a middle school Social Studies teacher. Coding, and all this other stuff really looks like a different language to me and I just get more confused and frustrated than anything. Coding would be helpful to many other people such as website designers or whatever. But for me I was completely lost which ultimately makes me shut down and not really care…I am always open for help as I have been reaching out to classmates.

  5. I agree with a lot of other commenters that coding is its own language and deserves to have acknowledgment for the level of education and expertise a coder must have to execute a code properly. I also agree that just because something is created as “doing,” doesn’t make it any less valuable. However, I just can’t view computer code as a “humanity.” It might be as intricate as Literature, but not in the same way. If we include computer code, why would we not include other things that act in the same manner, like an architect’s blueprints for example.

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