A fantastic piece from Jonathan Stray on “algorithm designers to dedicated curators to, yes, traditional on-the-scene pro journalists, a great many people in different fields now have a part in shaping the digital public sphere”: “What should the digital public sphere do?”.
The famous quoted passage from John Donne below has been brought up a few times the past few weeks. Here is the whole: “Meditation 17”:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
…What is marvelous about algorithmic thinking and Webmaking is that you can actually see abstract thinking transformed into your own customized multimedia stories on the Web, offered to a community, and therefore contributing to the Web. Algorithmic thinking is less about “learning code” than “learning to code.” Code is never finished, it is always in process, something you build on and, in many situations, that you build together with others. Answers aren’t simply “right” guesses among pre-determined choices, but puzzles to be worked over, improved, and adapted for the next situation, the next iteration. You look at examples, you try your own, you run the program, you see if it works. If it doesn’t, you see where you started to go wrong, return to that place, and try something else. The better you become, the more possibilities open for you. Your motivation for learning isn’t to score in the 99th percentile on your end-of-grade exam but to have more complex, surprising, or beautiful results that you can work on and share with your friends. Isn’t that what all learning should be?
…As a “discipline” or profession, programming is anomalous in that it resists professional certification or licensing. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no professional certification or licensing for programmers. There’s no equivalent of a bar exam or a beautician’s certification, no equivalent of the nursing or public accountant’s license or the MBA. You’re as good as the last program you wrote.
If every elementary school child learned code, it would help them understand that the World Wide Web is vital for everyone because we make it. And if every child learned to code the way it is expected that they will learn the other R’s, we might have a side benefit of greater diversity in our tech worlds. I’d love to see Dora the Coder to encourage girls to play at Webcraft—and a Dora who could be of any race, from any culture, from any country, rich or poor. Our Web is better from full, open, democratized participation—and so is society.