Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 265.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2003 08:44:51 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance)
Subject: Dance Steps to Coding
While recently in a book about T'ai Chi, I came across a passage that
contrasted learning by the book with learning from an instructor. To whit
"old dance manuals with footprints on the floor, for doing cha-cha-cha and
tango. People never could learn to dance through the Arthur Murray dance
books, so finally they had to pay their fee to go to the dance school."
[Al Chung-liang Huang Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain (1973)]
This has made me wonder how people in the humanities come to learn
programing languages. I am especially wondering about the role of
autodidactic practices in the acquiring of technical savy and at what
moment in their apprenticeship humanits might search out spaces for
show-and-tell modes of knowledge acquisition.
I ask because it appears that on many technical discussion lists that
reading code is practiced almost as an exquiste explication de texte. For
example, one can call to mind Jeni Tennison's magistral tutorial
interventions on the XSL discussion list hosted by Mulberry Technologies.
Was there ever a time or a place where "reading code" was consider worthy
to be in the purview of humanities computing?
I raise the question not purely for the pedagogical aim but for the way
histories and styles of learning shape research interests. I am persuaded
that folks who have learnt to hand code HTML look under the hood and view
source mark up when accessing WWW resources more often than folks who have
relied on WYSISWG editors to produce HTML. <!-- You would be surprised
what gets tucked away in comments -->
Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
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