ARTICLE IN DIGITAL PRESENT

Digital Present
supporting digital literacy at Central Saint Martins

The Face of Code: understanding your tools

http://digitalpresent.myblog.arts.ac.uk/2014/04/09/the-face-of-code-speaking-the-programming-language/

 

Central Saint Martins’ MA Communication Design student, Timothy Klofski, is learning how to code as part of his final year project. He is openly documenting and sharing his learning process through a blog (http://timothycodes.myblog.arts.ac.uk), and in this article gives a background to his experimentation with programming in an attempt to explore the boundaries, and barriers, of the visual mind towards code. In doing so, Timothy is developing a deep understanding of the mechanics of the digital world, and expanding his ‘digital literacy.’

“Nowadays a computer is undoubtedly the most versatile tool for any designer; most design software, such as Adobe’s Creative Suite, have valuable sets of pre-defined solutions for common problems. But how can design maintain its integrity as a craft creating truly unique work, if designers are left with only ticking boxes? 
Malcolm McCullough answers the objection with the following analysis: ‘Works of computer animation, geometric modelling, and spatial databases get “crafted” when experts use limited software capacities resourcefully, imaginatively, and in compensation for the inadequacies of prepackaged, hard-coded operations.’ Today coding is brought into design processes, breaking pre-defined, hard-coded what you see is what you get (wysiwyg) environments and making computational and generative design a major part of the design practice. As a graphic designer, I feel the need to be part of the programming community, to speak the language of my most important tool.

Programmes such as Photoshop give me the freedom to experiment without the fear of potentially ruining my work. However, this perceived freedom is always controlled by the parameters of the tools in the programme, so is never truly unique or original.

Amy Carter ( Illustrator, CSM Graduate)

I was first introduced to code as a tool, when I stumbled across the open-source vector framework called paper.js which is based on Scriptographer, a scripting environment for Adobe Illustrator. The idea was to enable an open-source alternative to Adobe’s Illustrator, of course Adobe caught on to that and has now blocked any sort of integration in their latest software. Following this, I was inspired by an Introduction into Programming held at Central Saint Martins. We were introduced to Processing as a means of creating quick digital sketches with code. I was immediately fascinated by the possibilities this software was bringing to the table – it was clear to me that this had to be explored. Since then I have been participating and observing the coding community by going to festivals, conventions, talks and workshops in the field. I am now coding/programming myself, as an autoethnography, and am using JavaScript in Processing. I have been exploring different learning approaches in the hope of successfully learning how to code.

Face of Code. Copyright Timothy Klofski 2014
ESC APE. Copyright Timothy Klofski 2014

If you can learn how to build a typeface, you can learn how to write some rudimentary code. – The problem is that people move themselves into a context, which is like a high school math class.

Jer Thorp ( Media Artist, ITP NYU )

British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow said in 1959, ‘I have had, of course, intimate friends among both scientists and writers. It was through living among these groups and much more, I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’ (…) I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups.’ Snow describes our society being made up of two distinct cultures, a scientific culture and a humanistic culture. The problem with that being, that they simply cannot communicate since they approach issues fundamentally different. 
And so it is to this day, that from age six people are put into categories of being good or bad at maths, this creates an attitude within defining ones identity. As being an ‘arts’ or ‘maths’ person, thus more creative or less so. I dare to believe that this pre-conception can be broken and that anyone, no matter what background is able to learn new ways and think differently.

I wanted to possibly distinguish different learning options, so I started documenting my process publicly in a blog (http://timothycodes.myblog.arts.ac.uk). My first attempt was a self-directed individual study led by the official Processing handbook. I was able to get through the introductions and aspirations the project had. I started treating each chapter as a tutorial. I quickly learned the basics of the programming language (which is also called Processing), or at least that’s what I thought. After the third chapter, I was stuck. Procrastination kicked-in and the book was never to be held again. Succeeding this downfall, I looked for a different solution and found a highly praised book within the programming community called ‘Learning Processing – A Beginner’s Guide’ by Daniel Shiffman. It’s engaging and motivating as it takes on a storytelling approach. As Shiffman’s introduction reads, ‘This book tells a story. It is a story of liberation, of taking the first steps toward understanding the foundations of computing (…)’ I had a lot more success with this book. Nevertheless, I was able to slip away and procrastinate and not engage with learning how to code. I was demotivated and tired of the rules and structures I had to understand before being able to experience interesting outcomes and creations.

Lastly, I needed a new approach, something that would keep me focused. I decided to work on mini-briefs set by an actual person, CSM senior lecturer Dr. Rebecca Ross. This has been proving well and set a stone rolling: http://www.openprocessing.org/user/34403

Links and References

Open Processing http://www.openprocessing.org/user/34403

MA Communication Design http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/courses/postgraduate/ma-communication-design/

Amy Carter http://www.amy-carter.com/
This entry was posted in Case studies, Digital tools and tagged coding, csm, digital, digital literacy, MA Communication Design, programming, timothy klofski by Jo Morrison. Bookmark the permalink.
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WHICH LANGUAGE (???)

We live in a coded and programmed world. Every day we use our phones and computers to set-up and go about our daily lives. Following the words of Austrian-British philosopher and logician, Ludwig Wittgenstein, “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world” – it seems plausible and important for visual practitioners to understand the basics of programming languages. To speak the language of their most important tool and to sustain themselves as valuable crafters (makers) of the future.

But once you dive into the world of code you realise it’s not that easy to figure out where to begin. The overwhelming choice of languages that all have different functions and strengths with C, PythonFortran, R, Matlab/Octave or JavaScript or or or, it is truly difficult to get started…  But there might be a solution, or so it seemed today in all the techno-news out there, called Dubbed Julia.

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THE FACE OF CODE

Coding/Programming has a really bad image. It’s considered a geek’s world, programmers are said to have no social skills and don’t like sunlight. – This prejudice is totally wrong and yet it shapes the image of code. How can we change this? Let’s change the face of code!

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Our Image of what code and programming is, is influenced and shaped by how we are confronted with the subject. John Graham-Cumming (a British programmer and writer) has been pointing out how code or programming is projected and presented (used) in Movies. It seems to always be used as an encrypted-riddle-language of hyperspace (or something) that no one can or will understand except our expert, hero protagonists.

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But what is most interesting here is that infact the codes used in these movies are basically random source-codes that don’t relate to the story in the movie at all. on his blog (http://moviecode.tumblr.com/) John Graham-Cumming has been tracking down these source-codes and revealing where they are from and what they actually mean. – It is quite entertaining…

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WE ARE MAKERS

rev_digital

 

If we look at any creative institution, agency or production company around the world, we will notice one similarity one thing that they all share – their tools. They all have new Apple computers and they all use Adobe as their software provider. This seems fine at first glance, after all these products are very well designed. – However, it’s a bit worrying, if we think about the fact that we only have two corporations providing the tools for somewhat all the creative industries world wide.

Here is my comment on Adobe’s Creative Cloud:
To me, renting these programs is as if a carpenter were to rent his toolbox on a monthly payment plan. Now, what if the carpenter is out of work and can’t pay his bills anymore? Well, the company that has been renting his toolbox to him would most likely have to take it back until he pays them according to their contract. This is where we have a dilemma. The carpenter will need his tools in order to earn money again and to be able to pay his bills, but how should he do that if he doesn’t have his toolbox?

Convenience always comes at a price but leaving your tools, your work, your life in someone else’s hands, whilst accepting mile long terms and conditions, seems nuts. – This development highlights and underlines the importance of coding knowledge within the creative industries. After all, in a dystopian future vision; programming might be the only way for the ‘little people’ to have a voice.

We are the creatives, we are the makers – we don’t want to simply tick boxes and choose a colour, we wan’t to maintain our craft.

 

 

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IS IT TIME TO HIDE?

Or are chances of privacy greater without trying to hide ones activity?
google-nsa-630

Encryption software is free and downloadable for everyone.
See how open-source projects let you hide your digital activity.

Encrypting your emails: https://gpgtools.org/

And your web activity: https://www.torproject.org/

If I am trying to hide, perhaps that means I have something to hide.

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ITS ABOUT FREEDOM

Lately there has been a very interesting debate going on in the press about the NSA being revealed as a self declared digital police.
The Guardian started a discussion when they reported that Verizon had been giving all of their networks communication data to the NSA with a shrug.

Wired Magazine has been continuing a very important discussion:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2014/01/how-the-us-almost-killed-the-internet/

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2014/01/nsa-surveillance/?cid=16973664

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2014/01/mozilla/?cid=17066364

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THE WEB OF ONE

In 2011 Eli Pariser explained the Filter Bubble in a TED Talk. Interesting in many ways, Eli’s presentation stresses the responsibility which come with the great powers of coding.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS – with Kyle Mcdonald

I had the chance to have a chat with Kyle last summer in NYC, Light Leaks was one of the things we talked about. “It’s one of thoes projects where you really enjoy what you do” – Kyle said while I was pelting him with questions on the open-source community and learning how to code.

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it’s the latest, not the greatest..

it’s the most frustrating.

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Is there a better typeface for code?

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Which font does Processing use; Lucida Console, Monaco or Monospaced?
Why don’t we change that look – perhaps code could be more engaging with a different look?

 

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