I am currently working on an article concerning creative coding at the Käsityökoulu Robotti (art&craft school Robotti). Robotti is a non-profit organization that offers teaching on art&tech for children.Read More
Ohjelmoinnin opetus käynnistyy peruskouluissa ensi vuonna ja viimeisen vuoden aikana se on ollut useaan kertaan esillä mediassa. Reaktorin perustamat Koodikoulut ja Linda Liukkaan ja Juhani Mykkäsen Koodi2016-opas ovat erityisesti saaneet paljon julkisuutta ja herättäneet keskustelua. Ohjelmoinnin opetuksen alkaminen tuo myös tarpeen kouluttaa opettajia, sillä kovin harvalla on kokemusta ohjelmoinnista. Tähän tarpeeseen on vastannut mm. Koodiaapinen, joka on Aalto-yliopiston ja IT-yrittäjien yhteishanke.
Olen omassa tutkimuksessani käsitellyt ohjelmoinnin opetusta, sekä koodin, tuon ohjelmia pyörittävän merkkijonon ymmärrystä viimeisien vuosien ajan.Read More
Information and communication technology (ICT) has become embedded into our daily lives. Code is in the heart of this technology. The way code is perceived influences the way our everyday interaction with ICT is perceived: is it an objective exchange of ones and zeros, or a value-laden power struggle between white male programmers and those who think they are users, when they are, in fact, the product being sold. Understanding the nature of the code thus enables the imagination and exploration of the present state and alternative future developments of ICT. This better understanding is especially important for developing basic education so that it gives capabilities for coping with these developments. Currently, the discussion has been mainly on the technical details of the code. In this article, we study how to broaden this narrow view in order to support the design of more comprehensive and future-proof ICT education. We approach the concept of code through nine different metaphors from existing literature on systems thinking and organisational studies. The metaphors we use are machine, organism, brain, flux and transformation, culture, political system, psychic prison, instrument of domination and carnival. We describe their epistemological background and give examples of how code is perceived through each of them. We then use the metaphors to suggest different complementary ways ICT could be taught in schools. The metaphors illustrate different contexts and help to understand the discussions related to developments in ICT such as open source community, democratization of information and internet of things. They also help to identify the dominant view and the tensions between the views. We propose that the systematic use of metaphors described in this paper would be a useful tool for structuring the dialogue around code in designing ICT education.
In this paper, we define code as a digital language with a set of assumptions about the users and the world that is used to create programs. These programs can then be run in selected technologies, from automated factories to personal computers and in their operating systems. We do not restrict our analysis to any specific programming language, but rather refer to the common concept that all of the languages share together.
This paper focuses on the question of how the code is understood and addressed.
Currently, the discussion has been mainly on the technical details of the code. In this article, we study how to broaden this rather narrow view in order to support the design of more comprehensive and future-proof ICT education. We approach the concept of code through nine different metaphors from existing literature on systems thinking and organisational studies.
What do we mean by metaphors?
What are metaphors? Following Lakoff, we define metaphors as mappings from one domain to another. They are helpful in understanding abstract concepts such as code.
Using a metaphor, the entities in one domain are mapped to correspond to entities in another domain. For example, a segment of code could be mapped to represent an organ in a human body. Metaphors can be powerful in influencing how an issue is approached, or a problem is framed, where we are mostly unaware of their effect (Thibodeau & Boroditsky, 2011).
Why these metaphors? While there are many metaphors we could choose, we have chosen to adapt the nine metaphors described by Jackson in his approach of “creative holism”. We chose these because of their broad coverage: they represent four common paradigms in social theory, two views to complexity and three perspectives on the nature of human interaction.
(Jackson, M.C., 2003. Systems thinking : creative holism for managers, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.)
The nine metaphors we use are based on four different paradigms and modes of thinking: functionalist, interpretive, emancipatory and postmodern.
We use the metaphors to suggest different complementary ways ICT could be taught in schools. The metaphors illustrate different contexts and help to understand the discussions related to developments in ICT such as open source community, democratization of information and internet of things. They also help to identify the dominant view and the tensions between the views. We propose that the systematic use of metaphors described in this paper would be a useful tool for structuring the dialogue around code in designing ICT education.
Machine & organism:
presents the current dominant view
world seen as simple and people unitary.
Code as an unproblematic language to be taught so students will have better employment.
Code as logical, mathematical, analytical skill.
Then if we still stay on functionalist paradigm, we could use brain, flux and transformation paradoxes, that move the focus from the mechanic viewpoint and put emphasis on the intelligence of code, e.g. cloud computing, big digital infrastructures, the ubiquity of code in our everyday lives
(The Code is a complex set of code and machines running it. Code is everywhere)
The interpretive paradigms focus more on the way code influences the society and culture-And acknowledges that it is jointly decided, -or it should be jointly decided. The Code is part of a democratic system. For example identifying what are the alternatives to using some programs (are there?) and thinking how to create alternatives if there are none.Questions about free software, open source, privacy, whistleblowers and even the structure of internet.
But do we decide? Who makes the development choices in a program and what are his interests? If the code is not simple is the decision done by white male programmers? (link back to the white male programmers part at the start)
Emancipatory paradigm is linked to the political system view, but far more critical: who has put the systems in place? for what? How to break free?
And where as instrument of domination takes a more societal approach, psychic prison focuses on the individual. How the code influences the life of the student, teacher,?
(obsessive gaming, facebook etc, changing habits as homework, Sherry Turkles (MIT) research on texting teenagers etc.)
Reflecting the way the students themselves create restrictions for themselves by the use of their devices or other things with code (see e.g. http://www.wnyc.org/series/bored-and-brilliant/).
Finally, the Carnival metaphor uses postmodern paradigm and dives into the code and comments it inside.
Demystify code: it is a tool like a pen
Remystify and reclaim code: it is a source of inspiration, a perspective to the world: using art to explore the other metaphors and embrace emotions and experiental knowledge instead of just rational thought.
Our purpose in describing and applying these metaphors is not to argue that one is better than the other, or that a certain view to an issue should be followed.
Rather, our purpose is to use the metaphors to structure the discussion around an issue, in our case the issue of code.
Now that code literacy is gaining popularity, what is meant by code becomes more important. However, the societal discussion around code is fragmented and superficial. We have illustrated ways to embrace the tensions and raise the ignored aspects also to the educational agenda?
Ending of the year presents us with the opportunity to look back and reflect the past year. Fortunately, if you happen to be in Facebook, they provide the review for you in their "yearly review"-app. Based on your status updates of your year, the app puts them together and presents your year to you. Then you can share it. To be extra kind Facebook also pre filled the text on the status update.
In many ways, one could consider this as a nice gesture and piece of software from Facebook. Now we don’t have to do the hard work at reflecting back our year. No need to think and decide the important points. In a true style of the Silicon Valley solutionism the problem is solved. - Of course, I know I do not have to share the presentation if I don’t want to, but it is popping in my feed time and time again and every time I get shivers down my spine from this.
Well, first it reminds me of how much this big corporation knows about me, or think it knows. And the information served to us in the form of yearly review is just a fraction of data Facebook collects about us. (and sells to their advertisers.) This yearly presentation just shows us a little glimpse of the algorithms working in the background. Churning away quietly, patiently collecting all the little bits and pieces we pour into it.
It is not that algorithms are bad in some way; they are essentially just pieces of code, instructions to do predefined task. But the way and cases we use them trouble me. Why isn’t there more open algorithms aimed to enhance commonwealth and wellbeing? This video by Harlo Holmes for example, is just a tiny peek on what we could achieve with algorithms, when put on to good use. Why is it that the most sophisticated algortihms are used to gather information about us, categorising us like a herd and then selling this information to advertisers? You can be single, married, divorced, male, female, white, gay, in your mid twenties, etc. You might also be profiled to like a certain genre of clothing, music, movies. You are most active with these friends, and then your friend's data is compared to yours etc.... All this to collect a profile of the way you act, what makes you happy -how to deliver an advertisement that speaks to you. For your benefit, naturally. Another technological solution to a problem that doesn’t need solving: how to deliver ads so that they are effective and not annoying. (IMHO: all ads are annoying by their nature. )
There are naturally many more uses for algorithms; Christopher Steiner has a nice review of algorithms in his book: Automate this: How Algorithms came to rule our world.
Second, they force me a solution I don’t want or need. They present me with a template for and of my life. All the things are from within the bounds of Facebook. - That’s where everything happens and we are our true selves, naturally. They want to engage me more into their ecosystem. -on a side note, have you noticed how difficult it is to share anything you find in Facebook outside of Facebook? Especially in mobile devices. It might be nice to take a look back at your status updates yourselves and see what you have done. This is similar to Think Up that might serve some meaningful glance about your use in social media. But it is worth asking that why share it with everyone? Or why Facebook wants us to share it with everyone? In a way, this reminds me of the ways Facebook slowly and quietly invades into our life more and more. Who remembers the beacon episode? After that Facebook has slowly and quietly launched more and more ways to gather knowledge about us. But in a very quiet fashion. Of course, sometimes something spills.
Why all this is a problem ? -Maybe it isn’t -depends on the angle you look at it. For me, personally I found all this to limit my freedom as a ”user”. And this is true to most social media sites and beyond. (Yes, I’m looking at you Google the behemoth) These companies keep their algorithms and source code so secret that you might suspect some sinister magic is beyond it. Probably is too. But the more down to earth reason is that if we want to live in digital world and interact with each other in it, wouldn’t it make sense to do it in either public open way, intheoretical open platform or in your own style? I don’t recall sending letters to my friends that were pre filled. Why to do it in the digital world? Because it is easy? Really?
Third, the yearly review does not have any thought in it. If we don’t count the countless hours some developers poured into it. But the working product is just algorithms, code. The process is thoughtless, emotionless. This can lead to inadvertent algorithmic cruelty, like in Eric Meyer’s case. And the inadvertent cruely may be even more common according to Dale Carrico in his post in World Future Society
After all this lecturing and preaching I must say that I am not opposed to seeing people share their yearly reviews (Must admit, I do not look at them.) I am just hoping that if you want to share your yearly review that it would be genuine and hand-made. And not feel-good ego boosts, done in a double click. What the digital world does not need is that we automate more emotions and empathy, what it does need is handcrafted individual works made by humans, something that can be felt.
Evgeny Morozov recently gave a talk on the relationship of digital technologies and their relationship with societal and political systems in Collegezalencomplex Radboud University, Nijmegen. It's a lomg talk, but worth a watch. Even the first half an hour sheds light to the complex problems that may arise when internet-solutionism and data surveillance are married with governments that outsource more and more of their services to private sector.