During this upcoming week, I am honored to visit universities in the US. First, during Monday to Wednesday, I will be visiting Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The University has a fascinating art education department, and I am grateful to be meeting Dr. Robert Sweeny along many others there. I will also be visiting Digital Humanities department and Dr. Kenneth Sherwood to talk about creative coding.
On Tuesday I will be giving two public talks -So if you can’t bare to watch the thriller that is the elections you can come and discuss how code can be used in art education and different ways to perceive code and digitalization. Then on Wednesday morning I will have a short workshop on creative coding. Then on Friday I am at Virginia Commonwealth University and giving a public lecture there. VCU also has a great art education department and Dr. Ryan Patton has written very interesting articles on coding in art education (see for example Patton, R. & Knochel, D.A., 2015. If Art Education Then Critical Digital Making:,)
As I have been preparing for the research journey and presentations I have been thinking about the role of creative code in education. In many cases as I have been presenting my research in conferences etc. I have found out that the concept of the creative code is unfamiliar. That can be easily understood as it includes two rather ambiguous things: Creativity and code. For me, creativity (maybe more art?) means the possibility to explore a phenomenon as it appears, without preassumptions. Much like in phenomenology art does not inquire if the world around is real, rather the artist creates her world through exploring (Kojonkoski-Rännäli 2014) The object of this creative exploration, in this case, is digital code.
The code on the other hand may present another set of difficulties. Most of us know that code is something that computer programs are built with, but the understanding may end there. Coding can be seen as mystical, and the end products sometimes even magical. The myth of computer genius, a super nerd, in many cases lives on and the problem is not helped by the trending digitalization, which is often cited as either our fast lane ticket out of the misery that is our political and economical situation and on the other hand as a train which is going to run over us pretty soon. In a recent article written together with Dr. Mikko Dufva, we presented a few different perspectives on code hoping to open up the concept of code. (You can read it here )
As its simplest code can be seen as the interface between us and computers, as the building blocks we use to create our digital surroundings, as a way to architect our digital domain. As digital become ubiquitous in our daily lives, the importance of understanding code increases. As Lessig writes:
“We can build, or architect or code cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental,
or we can build, or architect or code cyberspace to allow those to disappear... …
There is no choice that does not include some kind of building. Code is never found; it is only ever made, and only ever made by us” - L. Lessig
The meaning of code, in this case, is that we have to see that the code we create architects our digital surroundings and embeds them with the objects we code into them. The aesthetics, ethics, and politics. And that code is not a force of nature, a power that may not be touched or changed, but rather a plastic model sculpted and created by us.
Then to the concept of creative code. As Knochel and Patton write in their paper, creative code can be a bit hard to understand. (Patton & Knochel 2015)
Creative code may sound like an oxymoron, but as in many technical processes in the art studio, creativity may emerge once rules are learned and then broken
- Knochel & Patton
Still, I see the creative code as a concept that makes perfect sense( And often things that make perfect sense are oxymorons.