the role of computational literacy in computers and writing

Sample and Vee note the ways that code has made its way into our research and our classrooms, that programming has long looked like writing, and that in the culture, there are popular initiatives for people to learn code – initiative that carry much of the same impetus as the inclusion of digital technologies in composition classrooms (see: Alexander and Rhodes). What follows are a set of provocative ideas about the role of code and computational literacy in computers and writing.

“programming is the new ground of writing”

Rieder argues that the field has taken flight into new technological paradigms, but our conception of writing has stayed grounded in logocentricity. He argues that the alphabet of computing is motivated, dynamic, capable of thinking, and open for transformation.

“coding values”

Vee argues that code – academic or professional – is not without context and can only be evaluated in context. And in rhet/comp, code that contributes to public discourse, enables people to solve problems, or communicate counts as good code.

“5 BASIC statements on computational literacy”

Sample offers 5 points re: code

  • Code is mathematical and procedural, emphasizes sharing
  • Code is writing in public, a social text, “produced and reproduced under specific social and institutional conditions”
  • Programming is a set of practices with their own histories and tensions
  • Codes acts and communications – it does what it says and says what it does, so code can be read
  • Code necessitates a competency – not a literacy – “Competency means knowing the things you need to do in order to do the other things you need to do. It’s not the same for everyone, and it varies by place, time, and circumstance. Competency also suggests the possibility of doing things, rather than simply reading or writing things.

Translating this experience to computers and writing, competency means reckoning with computation at the level appropriate for what you want to get out of it—or put into it.”

“i am not a computer programmer”

Humanities needs partnerships; we can contribute ways of learning and knowing, they can contribute technical know-how

This relationship acts like a literacy sponsorship. We sponsor their learning about pedagogy and critique. They sponsor our opportunity to learn, to tinker, to collaborate.

Lockett argues that computational literacy should include a wider range of competancies

  • Understanding of how and why I do code
  • Whether or not I can recognize the way code influences specific programs

“a vision of craft”

Stolley argues that computational literacy (source literacy) is important: “What happens if we only write in other people’s apps, other people’s text boxes. What happens if we think ourselves so privileged as a field that we can pick and choose from the digital buffet of what will and will not be our concerns.”

His vision: making from raw digital materials (open languages and open formats), *write* is a literal term, everyone writes with web standards, people debate and collaborate over markup and design patterns

This vision, Stolley notes, leads to an emerging interest in the field re: craft: “a deep appreciation for the raw materials, the languages, of the digital medium, and seeing digital writing as more than the on-screen result of the machinations of commercial software”

Further, “It is commitment to research and learning over technical support and intuitive interfaces. Craft is ultimately the sense of taking responsibility for the digital writing that we unleash on the world. It is the thrill and wonder of watching our collective work emerge from the thousands of lines of hand-written source code that make up the eBooks and web applications that members of the field write every single year.”

Four means to make this vision real: learn command line, commit to writing in a text editor with good syntax highlighting with HTML and CSS, learn Git, learn a couple of web-oriented languages

“the anxiety of programming”

Losh notes that computational literacy evokes anxiety and can be exclusive. However,

  • However, doing it yourself means doing it with others
  • Be comfortable in your own abilities to learn new things, ask questions, facilitate the questions of others
  • Moving toward a set of everyday commonsense practices

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